Cats make wonderful pets. Whether they are affectionate or aloof, they bring joy and humor to any home. As a member of the family, you love them. As the cleaner of their litter box, life could be better. It’s an eyesore, and we tend to try and hide it away in a small room to keep it out of sight. Fortunately, there are many options for you and your furry friend! Whether you want to purchase something, are ready to get creative, or a mix of both – there’s bound to be a perfect way for you to hide the litter box.
If you’re looking for a cheap-ish option for hiding your litter box and are willing to do a little work to get it
done, modifying an Ikea cabinet is one way to go. Plus, you can put fresh plants or a candle on top to mitigate the smell. Simply cut a square into the side of the cabinet, install a cat door (or don’t!), and you’re good to go.
The Wicker Basket
Baskets like these are relatively inexpensive and are more breathable than the cabinet option above meaning smells won’t linger as long. Plus, baskets with framing like the one in this project are perfect for a little DIY. Cutting out one side of the wicket doesn’t hinder the integrity or sturdiness at all.
The Corner Bench
While this project isn’t made for hiding a litter box, it can be easily fixed to change that. Simply use the method in the Ikea Hack to cut out a rectangle on the side. A bench like this one can be left with a plain wooden top or can be padded to add extra seating in your entryway or kitchen.
Under the Stairs
Have empty space under your stairs? You can use it to hide your cat’s litter box! Use the instructions on this project to craft doors and a small room for your cat. This keeps your litter box hidden away as well as out of the way, keeping you from having to add extra furniture to your home.
This adorable planter can be purchased at Wayfair (plant not included!). Plants and litter boxes work so well together because plants naturally freshen the air around them. A planter like this could be created with a little time and elbow grease, but if you’re looking for something that’s ready to go now, this one is the way to go.
In a Drawer
This project is similar to the first on the list, but instead of a regular cabinet, install a pull-out drawer instead. This will give you easy access to clean the litter box without having to put your head under a cabinet.
There are dozens of ways to hide a litter box in your home, and the internet is full of tutorials or purchasable options. Hopefully this list gave you some ideas of what to do in your own home. Remember, a litter box is only well-hidden if it’s also well-cleaned. Unscented or odor-absorbing litter (versus ones with heavy scents), daily cleaning, and an air freshener will go far to keep litter boxes hidden even from the most sensitive noses. When you home is on the market, you definitely want to keep the box clean and utilize one of the suggestions above, if possible, to remove it from being out in the open for potential buyers to see….and smell.
If you want the best deal possible in a business situation, start by asking the right questions. The things you ask your Loan Officer can help to guide your conversations and ultimately result in a great transaction. Your LO wants you to be happy. He or she would love for you to leave the closing table feeling good. Where to start? Try the following seven questions to get the ball rolling:
1. If I pay some things off before you pull my credit report, could I get a better interest rate?
The answer here is dependent on your current credit. Start by finding out exactly what’s on your report. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com for your free yearly copy. It will show all open accounts and all closed accounts for the past several years. The report will also list any bankruptcies, judgments, liens, and previous credit pulls. It’s good practice to bring a copy of your free report to your first meeting with your LO He or she can advise on what to pay-off, close, and/or dispute before the lender initiates their actual credit inquiry. Your free report won’t show your FICO score but it will offer a host of information to help you prepare for your loan application.
2. How long should I wait after a major financial blunder before I apply for a loan?
A good rule of thumb is to wait two years after a bankruptcy, foreclosure, short sale, etc. before applying for a new mortgage. The two-year rule assumes that during the waiting period you pay your bills on time and display great character when it comes to credit. Some borrowers may be advised to wait up to four years before applying for a mortgage if a more conservative loan product best fits their needs. If you must apply for a loan sooner than advised then the underwriter is likely to place you in a subprime risk category, resulting in a higher rate and/or tighter loan terms.
3. Are interest rates trending up or down?
It’s impossible to predict exactly what the mortgage market will do, but a good LO will be educated in this area. Find out if your LO keeps tabs on market indicators and reads-up on analyst predictions. If rates are likely to move up before you move on, you may want to consider locking your interest rate. Conversely, a downward trend in the market might prompt your LO to advise a “wait and see” strategy.
4. Does the loan I want have a prepayment penalty?
Loan terms vary from product to product. One item to consider is the presence or absence of a prepayment penalty. Some lenders will impose a fee if the buyer pays off a loan early, especially if the payoff is the result of a refinance. If there’s a chance that you could move or refinance shortly after obtaining your new loan, discuss this with your Originator. Prepayment penalties are not inherently bad – they serve a purpose in the marketplace as they help to stabilize returns for secondary market investors. Just make sure to ask whether your loan has a prepayment penalty so there are no surprises down the road.
5. What will my total payment be if I go with the highest loan amount offered?
Lenders will offer you a loan amount based on your ability and likelihood to repay on time. This doesn’t mean you have to go with the highest loan amount offered. Some people who can afford Cadillacs still buy Corollas. And those people still have a nice car to drive. The same applies to a home purchase. Consider your total payment at various loan amounts before committing to your next home or refinance.
6. How soon can we close?
Most loans can closes in under 30 days and a large portion are 17 days or less. Some buyers and sellers need more time for a variety of reasons.
7. Last but not least, do NOT make any financial changes until you speak with a lender!
Ask your lender what items you need to focus on regarding bills to pay, funds needing to be saved, and planning for that next big step. Don’t assume the answer is to pay off that car loan or wipe out as much debt as possible to improve your credit score. Remember they are the expert and a good lender will guide you in the right direction to your next home, or your first!
“Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” ~Tony Robbins
Buying a home is overwhelming – plain and simple. There are just so many decisions to make. When is a good time to buy? What neighborhoods are on the upswing? How old is too old? How much is too much? Are we truly fixer-upper kind of people? How badly do we need a fenced yard? Do the neighbors look friendly? More importantly, do they look quiet? Which lender is the best? What in the world is an adjustable rate mortgage? Is this really worth all the stress?
Okay, let’s slow it down and tackle those questions one at a time, starting with the easiest: Yes, it really is worth all the stress.
Next, we’ll jump up a level and work through a tougher one: the world of adjustable rate mortgages. But before we go too deep, let’s look at its counterpart – the fixed rate mortgage – because to understand one, you have to understand the other.
Fixed Rate Mortgages
The fixed rate mortgage is just that – a mortgage that has a fixed interest rate, one that does not change over the life of the loan. Whether it be 10 years or 30, that interest rate is going to stay the same.
For homebuyers who prefer to stay on-budget, tend to avoid financial risk, or plan to stay in the home for at least five years, the fixed rate mortgage is most likely the best bet. While the interest rate might be higher than the initial percentage offered on an adjustable rate mortgage, over the life of the loan, homeowners tend to pay a considerable amount less in interest. Additionally, this route allows the buyer to build a budget and stick to it as the payment amount never changes (not withstanding any escrow payments that could fluctuate due to property taxes or insurance costs).
Those looking for consistency in their monthly expenditures and a bit more peace of mind in the homebuying process will do well to consider this type of loan. Fixed rate mortgages are dependable, reliable, steadfast – much like that trusty dog laying by your side, the one you just have to get a fenced yard for, right? Seriously. There are so many questions.
Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMS)
So back to the big one: What in the world is an adjustable rate mortgage? Let’s start with the basics. An adjustable rate mortgage (ARM), also commonly referred to as a variable rate mortgage, is a loan in which the interest rate is subject to change after a fixed number of years. This type of loan usually begins at an attractively low rate for the initial period (typically 3, 5, 7 or 10 years) after which time the interest rate adjusts annually or even monthly based on the index it is tied to.
These types of mortgages often appeal to buyers planning to sell the home prior to the end of the initial fixed period, those hoping for more house than their current debt-to-income ratio allows, or folks purchasing a second home for the purpose of future rental income to help offset the increase in payment amounts. An ARM can be a great option for buyers with specific goals like these, but like all methods of financing, it is important to do ample research before laying down any signatures. To better understand how variable rates are determined, organizations like Debt.org are available to fill in the blanks. Mortgage calculators designed to help consumers considering variable rate loans are also a handy tool.
Financing a home is a big deal, and the decision on which type of mortgage to pursue plays a key role in how quickly and comfortably you can pay down that debt. For this reason, be sure to take your time, plug in the numbers and ask great questions of your lender before making the final decision. An adjustable rate mortgage might just be the ticket, but much like those seemingly serene neighbors, looks can be deceiving. In five years, that quiet couple might have four barking dogs, two sets of twins, a new affinity for the drums and a rooster that crows from sun up to midnight – and that’s okay as long as you had the foresight to plan for the increase in volume, as long as you’ve prepped during the honeymoon period and stocked up on ear plugs. An adjustable rate mortgage is kind of like that, a perfectly suitable option for those who are well-prepared.
For more information and to talk with a lender to find out which option is best for you, give me a call!
The term “seller’s market” is something we have heard a lot over the past couple years, but does that mean you put forth less effort to market your home properly…NO! Favorable interest rates and an influx of millennial buyers have created demand for houses as well as home loans. Now is a GREAT time to sell! But while garnering an offer might be easier than in years past, good marketing and preparation are still extremely important.
- Prep work pays.Some sellers order a pre-inspection from a licensed home inspector ($300-$500). Others consult with their Realtor regarding potential issues and fix things before their home goes onto the market. When demand for homes is high, sellers may be tempted to list a home as-is (i.e. without fixing it up first), but this will result in lowball offers. Consult with a professional to learn where the weakest links exist in your home and remedy those problems before you go to market. Some of the issues known to curtail a full-price offer include:
- Missing/damaged roof shingles
- Peeling paint on the exterior and bold color choices inside
- Dirty windows
- A chimney in need of maintenance or one that has never been inspected or cleaned
- Mold in the attic. Even just a few inches of non-toxic mold or mold residue can alarm buyers.
- Decluttering is a big deal.This applies whether our economy is at the height of excess or the bottom of the barrel. Cluttered spaces are a big turn-off to buyers. Also, personal tastes matter, so consider repainting your rooms with neutral colors. Granted, this makes absolutely no financial sense. Things like bright paint colors and too much furniture really shouldn’t make a difference to potential buyers, but they make a difference nonetheless. Consider some of the following modifications before you present your home on the marketplace:
- Neutral paint colors – You can save on cost by purchasing 5-gallon buckets and painting every interior room the same color as long as you choose from a neutral palette.
- A home that looks “lived-in” is not necessarily a good thing. Have a friend or family member walk through your home and offer you a fresh perspective on your space. If they think an area looks cluttered or contains unnecessary furniture, have a garage sale, donate unneeded items, or move some things into a rented storage space before you schedule any showings. Keep in mind you are moving so boxing things you won’t be using regularly is suggested.
- Clean, clean, clean.Make sure your home is spotless for every showing. If you’re averse to cleaning or don’t know where to start, hire a professional cleaning crew. Some areas of deep-cleaning that you might have overlooked until now include:
- Light fixtures including ceiling fans
- Check the attic.Get up into your attic. Inspect and clean the area. Pretend to be a buyer and look for any “red flags” that need addressed. Better to do this now than during the inspection phase of your transaction. Also, inspect any other forgotten areas like storage closets and cellars.
- First Impressions Matter.Buyers have choices. Put your home’s best face forward by doing the following.
- Work with a real estate agent who commissions a professional photographer. Most buyers begin their home search on the internet and will use photos to decide whether an actual showing appointment is worth their time.
- Do an exterior audit of your home before you list and before each showing. Was there a storm last night that blew leaves and sticks around? Did Fido leave a little presents in the yard? Buyers are understandably critical as they approach the front door of the biggest investment of their life, so show them more positives than negatives.
- Keep the grass mowed or sidewalks shoveled free of snow
Consider a Home Warranty.
- Home warranties have been around for several years now and can sweeten the deal for a prospective buyer. For around $400 you can offer buyers one year of enhanced insurance against unexpected repair costs. Longer coverage periods are also available.
When you’re ready to bring your product to market, don’t go it alone. Work with a real estate agent adept at marketing who can advise you on proper presentation of your home. Also, negotiate with buyers who are financially informed. Even in a seller’s market, enlisting the help of professionals puts you in the best position possible when it’s time to price, negotiate, and close on the sale of your home. Remember that “inking” the contract isn’t an end but a beginning.
Mortgage industry terms—there are many and it can be hard to make sense of them, especially when they seem so similar. Pre-qualification and pre-approval are often used interchangeably, but there are some major differences between the two. Both options can be helpful to your Realtor and other mortgage professionals while shopping for a home, but a pre-approval can help you further along your mortgage journey than a pre-qualification. This guide will help break down the benefits of both options.
How Pre-Qualification and Pre-Approval Differ
1.Pre-approval gives you a more accurate estimate.
2.A pre-approval will give you a much bigger picture of the home you can afford. After you finish the pre-approval process, you will receive a formal letter that states what your budget is. Your pre-approval is usually good for 90-120 days, but can be easily refreshed.
4. A pre-approval is going to give you documentation on your credit from a hard inquiry, as well as information on your assets, income, and debts. This is usually the first step after applying for a mortgage, so it is very helpful to your mortgage professional if this is already complete.
How Pre-Qualification and Pre-Approval are Similar
1. They can estimate the loan amount you qualify for.
When you first start looking for a home, you will have your own thoughts about how much house you can afford. Getting either a pre-qualification or pre-approval will give you an estimate based on things like income and credit score. From there, you can start to eliminate homes that are too high for your price range and start to look for the home that fits all of your needs including your budget.
2. They can show sellers that you are a serious buyer.
When we are experiencing a seller’s market, which means the housing inventory is low and houses don’t stay in the market for long, it can be important to have a pre-qualification or pre-approval. This will show the seller’s that you have already gone to a mortgage professional and taken the first steps in buying their home. This means you are a more serious buyer, which is a more confident sell for them!
3. They can give you a better chance of getting a loan for the amount you’ve offered the seller.
Getting a pre-qualification or pre-approval means that a professional has taken time to look through your finances to see what you will qualify for. As you continue through the mortgage process, you will receive a loan amount that is not far off from what you have already been approved or qualified for.
You’ll save yourself and others a lot of time and energy by getting pre-approved for home financing. Most real estate agents prefer that you have a letter of pre-approval before starting to shop for a home. The great news is that there is no charge and no commitment to go through our easy online pre-approval process with a trusted lender.
I get asked this A LOT…..how much money am I going to get back if I remodel, or if I upgrade my kitchen counter tops and paint my cabinets, replace my flooring, etc.? A question I ALWAYS ask in my design consultations is what the foreseeable future looks like. Are we upgrading or modifying for you for 2 years, 5 years, 10 years? That has a definite impact on how we proceed. In real estate, I will work with clients many months in advance sometimes because the seller is curious where to allocate funds to take care of necessary repairs, deferred maintenance, and suggested updating. Education and conversation assists my clients in making choices they feel confident about.
The biggest misconception I see (reality TV home improvement shows have influenced this) is that homeowners expect to profit from their investment after upgrading or putting money in to their home. Obviously, that is the goal if you are flipping homes, but for homes that are owner occupied, if you spend $2500 on new counter tops, don’t expect that the value of your home has now increased by $5,000.
I wrote an article recently on the difference between upgrades and deferred maintenance. If you haven’t cleaned your carpets in well over a year, touched up your exterior trim paint that’s peeling, have a roof that’s 20 years old, or ever had your furnace professional serviced, the cost to take care of those first (considered more necessary) may impact what you have left to upgrade a bathroom, for example. What some folks may not realize is that taking care of needed repairs and possibly doing some updating may be what your home needs in order to put it more in line with the comparable homes around you so that it sells for a comparable price and much faster.
Our goal is to enhance your home whether it is for you or for the next homeowner, or a combination of the two. If selling, we want to attract as many buyers as possible while maximizing your home’s potential to appeal to each of those buyers.
One of the questions buyers often wonder is whether it is necessary to have a buyer’s agent when purchasing new construction. The answer is a resounding yes! Some don’t even think about it or realize you can and should use a buyer’s agent when considering building.
As with any home purchase, there are too many potential pitfalls, hidden risks, and complications involved in the process to guarantee a good result unless you have experienced help.
It is vital to have a list of questions to ask a builder before moving forward. The answers to these questions could have a dramatic impact on whether you enjoy your home building experience or end up a frustrated mess!
Your agent can help ensure you hire the right builder. With new construction just about anything can go wrong. You are, after all, building a home that takes a while to construct. There are a number of things that can cause problems including weather, labor shortages, as well as issues with materials.
While you can choose to work with any real estate agent, having someone in your corner with experience selling new construction can be a huge asset! A buyer’s agent can guide you on appropriate upgrades and plan modifications, as well as choosing the right neighborhood and lot location. Many buyers do not realize when they drive by a new neighborhood and see “Homes Starting At” what is not included in the base package price.
Real estate purchases involve a lot of paperwork, documents that can be confusing and overwhelming. Your agent will make sure all the paperwork is filled and filed correctly. They will also ensure you are fully educated on the warranty policy offered by the builder and will address questions you may not think to ask.
The agent at the builder’s site represents the builder, not you. You do not want to go directly to the listing agent in most circumstances, so why would you not consider a buyer’s agent for new construction? When buying any home it is always wise to have an exclusive buyer’s representative in your corner working hard for your best interests.
Most households acquire a host of cherished items over time. Eventually, you may find yourself surrounded by more possessions than you can handle. Whether you are considering retiring in your own home or moving to a new space, it is important to create a plan to live comfortably. There are many issues that arise that can make the upkeep and maintenance of the home a challenge. Preparing for a new “rightsized” space can be an overwhelming prospect, especially when you have a home full of memories and keepsakes to go through.
5 tips to help you prepare to “Rightsize” for whatever comes next in your life.
Don’t be ashamed to get rid of items that belong to other people.
Quite often, the first place you can begin to clear is where other people’s items gather. Have you held on to your children’s old furniture or stored items for family and friends? If your answer is yes, start clearing their items. Contact family members and friends to find out if they want their items back or no longer have use for them.
Reduce your inventory of seasonal décor items.
Seasonal décor is often difficult for many of us to part with because of the sentimental value and memories attached to the items. Unfortunately, many of us end up with more memorable decorative items than we have room for. This is a sign to declutter before you decorate! Decluttering can save you time and money while allowing you to take inventory of all the wonderful items you want to preserve.
Dispose of broken and outdated items…..things that no longer fit.
In most cases, broken items are no longer useful or functional, but a hazard. Consider discarding well worn, old, holey, or torn clothing, bed linens, and towels as well as chipped or broken dinnerware. We all have those jeans in our closet that we will get back in to some day or clothes our kids have simply outgrown.
Start the process by identifying items you absolutely love and need.
Experts say the purpose of this process “is to create a new living environment that reflects a meaningful, comfortable lifestyle for the years ahead. Personal possessions that have purpose and meaning are honored and preserved for the new home.” After deciding what items are you need to live safely and comfortably, such as a bed, place for clothes or eating utensils, you can then consider which items you love most that are not essential to daily life or comfort.
Be patient and prioritize
In a world driven by immediacy, we often want instant results. Remember that Rightsizing is a process that works best with a plan and lots of patience.
For every milestone in our lives, we use space differently. Re-evaluate, adjust, and modify based on your needs in the present and for the future at a length of time you are comfortable with.
In our market we definitely have our fair share of multiple offer situations, especially in the heat of buying and selling season. How do we handle them as a buyer and seller?
Buyer: You have found the perfect home, but so have 3 other people and after putting in your offer, your REALTOR delivers the news that other offers have been received as well. You may have even been notified of this up front before putting in your offer. One of the first things I do as an Agent representing a buyer is verify status of the property to ensure I am in tune with the interest level. If a property has been on the market for a bit of time, chances are multiple offers are not in the equation, but the potential is always there. There are some factors that will determine how you will compete with others in this situation. How strong is your financing, down payment, length of time to move, do you have another home to sell in order to move forward with this purchase, just to name a few, AND how much do you LOVE the property? In a multiple offer situation, sometimes people get caught up in the competition and intensity of it, so they are willing to pay more for the home than they would in a less tense negotiation. How can we try to avoid competing with other offers? First, consider the time of year you are shopping. If you have a very strict budget and are shopping in a competitive price range, if possible, try to avoid shopping for a home when the majority of other people are. If this is unavoidable, we will discuss, in length, the strategies we will take.
Seller: You have prepped well to list your home. Your REALTOR feels strongly that you have a product that will be in high demand, however nothing is guaranteed to bring multiple offers once you hit the market. But they come and you are SO excited! In most situations, multiple offers tend to come very quickly after a property is marketed, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possibly after either. Trust in your Agent’s experience and expertise to evaluate each and every offer received to determine if: A) you want to select one to move forward with or B) you want to request that each person who has interest is given the opportunity to submit their highest and best offer by a certain day and time. There are a few factors to keep in mind while driving the price up. Will the property appraise for the agreed purchase price and if it does not, then what? What is the circumstance of the sale with each and every buyer…..is it contingent upon another sale, what are their financing terms, can they close when it is convenient for you, so on and so forth. Selecting the highest price is not always best.
In any negotiation, your REALTOR will provide you with the best advice possible, but the ultimate decision is yours!
Too often clients planning to sell their home confuse the difference between deferred maintenance and updating. When was the last time you had your furnace maintenance? Cleaned your duct work or carpets? How about the paint chipping on exterior trim? While many homes that are “updated” tend to sell faster, do not ignore maintenance and upkeep of home ownership. When it comes time to sell, some of my clients are surprised at the cost of to take care of deferred maintenance.
Being you live in the home daily, dirty siding, cracked mortar joints, or paint touch ups may not be as noticeable to you, but they are VERY important for the next buyer. I try to help my clients understand the cost and obligation associated with the musts in order to move on to what we need to do in terms of updating. The cleanliness of your home is also a representation of how well you may have, or may not have, taken care of other aspects of the home. I am speaking in terms of return vents, blinds, base boards, interior of appliances and light fixtures, etc. being cleaned…the things you don’t think about regularly when you put in a pair of earbuds and go to town with the vacuum or Swiffer on a Saturday afternoon.
Transforming your house from a home to a product (to sell) can be a challenge for some, especially those with a busy lifestyle, children, two full-time working adults, pets, etc. Planning ahead is key to avoid stressful crunch time. I offer very helpful and easy to follow guidelines for all of my clients in terms of prepping to sell, being ready for inspection, and staging your home for showings.
I would be honored to help you!