Posted by Mary Lou Buckley on 8/19/2018

There are basically three types of clutter that tend to emerge in most homes, and it usually gets worse as time goes on.

Homeowners often get so used to their own clutter, that it becomes virtually invisible to them.

That's one of the reasons it can be extremely helpful to work with a real estate agent when preparing your home for sale. Not only can an experienced agent provide an objective point of view, but most agents have a trained eye that can spot unsightly clutter "a mile away"!

There are several reasons household clutter is an issue when trying to stage a home for sale. First of all, it's an eyesore. It makes your home look less inviting to prospect buyers, and, in many cases, in makes rooms look smaller. Clutter also makes it more difficult to keep surfaces and floors clean, which is one of the cardinal rules of effectively staging a home.

Three Types of Clutter to Target

There's a delicate balance between having just enough --or too many -- items on countertops and tables. In most cases, it's too much! You're usually better off "erring on the side of sparseness," rather than the other way around. Unless something serves either a decorative or functional purpose (preferably both), it probably should be stored away in a drawer or cabinet. If it weren't for the fact that buyers typically look in closets when touring a home, then that would be an obvious place to hide clutter. However, that's sure to make a bad impression.

When you think of the word "clutter," what's the first thing that comes to mind? A typical mental image is that of a room crowded with too much furniture. That's a common problem with improperly staged homes, and it's a surefire way to send prospective buyers scurrying -- ones who might have otherwise made an offer. Cluttered rooms look smaller, messy, disorganized, and -- in some cases -- chaotic. None of those characteristics are going to create a good feeling in people's minds, which is a primary objective when showing a home to potential buyers.

The third type of clutter, which is also pretty typical, is wall clutter -- specifically: too many paintings, photos, art prints, posters, wall clocks, and other miscellaneous objects which make the walls look "too busy"! For some home sellers, this can be the most difficult aspect of visual clutter to fix because there's an emotional connection to family photographs, children's drawings, and so on.

If you're torn between what to display and what to hide, your real estate agent can be the best source of objective, unbiased advice. In many cases, "less is more," but it pays to get a professional opinion!





Posted by Mary Lou Buckley on 8/12/2018

Pets are a part of the family. When we welcome a new dog into the home, we often expect them to meet our standards of behavior without much guidance. Dogs, like children, require consistent training from all members of the family. They need positive reinforcement and clear signals from you to teach them what behavior is acceptable.

In this article, weíre going to cover some important house training tips for you and your canine companion. Weíll look at some of the common mistakes that new pet owners make, and talk about ways to curb undesirable behavior like chewing shoes or furniture or barking at windows.


Traits vs. behaviors

One common mistake new pet owners make is to attempt to place character traits on their dog. Words like pushy, protective, mischievous, etc. are all adjectives that we often use to describe our dogs.

However, as dog owners and home owners, our energy is better spent on recognizing and correcting behaviors. If your dog tears at a carpet or chews the corner of your sofa, it isnít very helpful sitting around thinking of adjectives to describe your dog (like restless or anxious). Rather, we should think about the behavior itself and how to replace it.

Letís jump right into some household behaviors and ways to replace them with desirable alternatives.

Chewing

Chewing is an important part of a dogís life. Chewing itself is not a negative behavior, but when your dog starts demolishing furniture or eating your homework, itís time to take steps to curb this behavior.

First, make sure your dog is eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise. Dogs who arenít eating a fat and protein rich food or who are overeating are prone to having excessive energy. If theyíre trapped indoors and have nothing to focus that energy on, theyíll turn to chewing things they arenít supposed to.

To focus your dogís energy on positive behaviors, take your dog for a walk, jog, or play with them. If you notice your dog attempting to chew things they shouldnít be, draw their attention away and provide them with a better alternative.

Barking

Just like chewing, barking is not in itself a negative behavior. Itís when your dog barks excessively and inappropriately that it becomes problematic.

Dogs bark for several reasons: to get you to play, to show that theyíre stressed or bored, and so on. If your dog spends a lot of time monitoring doors and windows and barking at passersby, there are a few things you can do to curb the behavior.

First, take away the trigger. In this case, that could be closing the curtains or restricting your dogís access to the room. If your dog is worried about strangers passing by the house, they are likely already too tense to begin training an alternative behavior to barking. If itís noises that alarm your dog, try playing soft music to mask the noises for a day or two.

Once youíre ready to start training, have someone walk past outside where your dog can see from the window or make a noticeable noise outside. Reward your dog with treats when they do not react until they become more comfortable with the outside distractions.




Tags: pets   dogs   dog training   pet behavior  
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Posted by Mary Lou Buckley on 8/5/2018

Flood insurance represents a valuable investment for many homeowners across the country, and for good reason. This type of insurance guarantees that your residence and personal belongings are protected against flooding due to a severe rain storm or other inclement weather. Therefore, purchasing flood insurance may enable you to avoid substantial losses due to flood damage associated with a natural disaster.

So how does flood insurance work exactly? Here are three things that every homeowner needs to know about flood insurance.

1. Flood insurance and homeowners insurance are very different.

Flood insurance serves as a supplemental insurance that can be purchased in addition to your homeowners coverage. However, flood insurance does not substitute for home insurance, and vice-versa.

Typically, a homeowners policy does not offer flood coverage. This means if your house is filled with water due to a natural disaster, your homeowners coverage will not protect you against property damage or losses.

In many cases, a bank or credit may require a homeowner to purchase flood insurance if he or she owns a house that is located in a floodplain. Conversely, you may want to consider purchasing flood insurance even if live outside a floodplain.

Remember, even 1 inch of water after a flood can cause major damage in your home. But if you have flood insurance in place, your home and belongings will be protected against flooding at all times.

2. Flood insurance is provided via the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

The NFIP offers flood insurance policies for your home and possessions. A flood insurance policy for your home guarantees that you're protected against any flood damage to your residence. Meanwhile, contents coverage insures you against loss of possessions due to flooding.

Also, it is important to note that flood insurance policies usually require at least 30 days before they go into effect. This means that you likely won't be able to purchase flood insurance only days before a major hurricane is expected to arrive in your city or town.

3. Flood insurance won't necessarily cover your entire home.

Federal flood insurance commonly offers coverage worth up to $250,000 for your home and $100,000 for your belongings. Therefore, if you own a home that is worth $300,000 and it is destroyed in a flood, your flood insurance policy will not cover the entire cost to replace your residence.

Comparatively, you can purchase "excess flood insurance" through a private insurance company to supplement a federal flood insurance policy. Excess flood insurance offers a great option if you want to insure your home and possessions against floods and guarantee that any policy claims are covered beyond national limits.

4. Floodplains may change over time.

Floodplain maps frequently change and evolve over time. Thus, a residence that was not in a floodplain several years ago may now be located in a floodplain.

If you plan to sell your residence, your real estate agent can help you find out if it is located in a floodplain. Or, if you intend to buy a new home, your real estate agent can tell you whether a residence is located in a floodplain as well.




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Posted by Mary Lou Buckley on 7/29/2018

You can ask any homeowner-buying and owning a home is expensive. Mortgage payments, property taxes, utilities, and other bills quickly add up.

If you want to buy a home but donít have a large down payment saved, odds are youíve discovered something called private mortgage insurance (PMI).

PMI is an extra monthly payment that you make (on top of your mortgage payment) when you donít have enough to make a large (20%) down payment on your home.

However, if you want to buy a home and donít want to tack on an extra monthly payment for PMI, you have options. In todayís post, Iím going to talk about some ways to avoid paying PMI on your mortgage so you can save more money in the long run.

PMI Basics

Before we talk about getting rid of PMI, letís spend a minute on what to expect when you do have to pay it.

PMI typically costs 0.30% to %1.15% of your total loan balance annually. That means that your PMI payments will decrease a moderate amount as you pay off your loan.

Furthermore, once you have paid off 22% of your loan, your PMI will be cancelled and youíll only be responsible for your regular monthly mortgage payments.

Getting PMI waived early

With conventional loans, you can request to have your PMI cancelled once youíve paid off 20% of the mortgage. However, many buyers with PMI are using some form of first-time buyer loan, such as an FHA loan.

With an FHA loan, youíll be stuck with PMI for the lifetime of the loan if you donít make a down payment of 10% or more. Thatís a lot of PMI payments, especially if you take out a 30 year loan, and it can quickly add up.

If you have an FHA loan with FHA insurance, the only way to cancel the insurance is to refinance into a non-FHA insured loan. And remember--refinancing has its own costs and complications.

Making it to the 20% repayment mark

On conventional loans, the best way to get rid of PMI is to reach your 20% repayment mark as soon as possible. That could mean aggressively paying off your mortgage until you reach that point.

This can be achieved by making extra payments, or just paying more each month. However, you donít want to neglect other debt that could be accruing costly interest in favor of paying off your loans. Make sure you do the math and find out which debt will be more expensive before neglecting other debt.

Once you do reach the 20% repayment mark, youíll have to remember to apply to have your PMI canceled with your lender. Otherwise, it will be canceled automatically at 22%.





Posted by Mary Lou Buckley on 7/22/2018

With school loans at an all-time high, and growing for each passing generation, many homeowners are ready to shoulder off any and all debt as quickly as possible. If youíre in this camp and looking to aggressively pay down debt there are a few options available when it comes to paying your mortgage off.

Seller concessions.

Also known as seller contributions, are where the seller agrees to pay a portion of the closing fees for the buyer. This can include title insurance, inspection fees, and processing fees. If the seller is looking to sell the house quickly they may consider agreeing to seller concessions.

Government options for loans.

Energy-efficient Mortgage (EEM) was created to help homeowners renovate to add environmentally friendly features to their home. So if youíre looking to install double-pane windows or update insulation this could be the loan for you.

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans offer lower closing costs, smaller down payments, and a fair interest rate.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) loans can be applied to homes in rural areas, regardless of if they are a part of a farm. You may qualify to apply for zero down payment and loan payments will be at a fixed rate.     

There are also many local programs offered at the state and city level. A quick Google search for loan options for your area should set you in the right direction!

Plan to Refinance

Down the road, you can refinance for a fifteen year home loan instead of thirty. Youíll pay off your loan in roughly half the time and save money on payments towards interest.

Throw It Everything Youíve Got

Youíll want to check with your lending company first as some have penalties for payments outside of the loan terms. However, if possible, making an extra payment either regularly or time to time will help cut down the overall time it takes to pay off your loan.

For example, you can make one extra mortgage payment each year or tighten up your day to day budget and apply what your savings towards your loan. Many homeowners get creative and take on side gigs to create the extra cash necessary to make additional payments.

If you donít have that room to flex you can also always apply any bonuses, tax refunds or windfalls that come your way. This also makes a bigger impact when paired with regularly scheduled extra payments.

Aggressive debt payoff strategies arenít for everyone. And thatís okay! However, if youíre looking to live a debt free life and enjoy your home knowing itís been paid in total these tactics are for you. With some strategy and creativity, you can find plenty of ways to make the process go quickly and smoothly.