Benefits Of Bathroom Renovations

Renovating a bathroom is not an easy undertaking but the added value and aesthetic appeal it can bring to your home may be worth the challenge. Investing in strategic updates on key fixtures could lead to a big return and you don’t have to spend a fortune. Check out these tips on basic renovations that will help make your home a hot commodity:

1. Paint, paint, paint!

A new coat of paint in your bathroom, or any room, is an inexpensive update that can be done for less than $200 for a DIY project and less than $750 with a professional. Calm, neutral shades are great for giving your bathroom a peaceful spa-like vibe.

2. Shine some light on lighting.

Installing a great lighting fixture not only adds aesthetic value to your bathroom, but also offers practical benefits. Lighting that is dull or overly florescent can change the entire look of an otherwise great bathroom. A simple upgrade, or a more luxurious installation, can make all the difference in the value of the room.

3. You can never have too much storage.

Besides closets, bathrooms are usually the smallest room in your home so creating space saving storage can make the room more functional. Try utilizing unused space between wall studs to create small nooks that hold soaps, towels or other toiletries. Don’t forget, a well-placed hook for hanging wet towels and/or bathrobes goes a long way in increasing functionality.

4. Nothing wrong with a little luxury.

Who says luxury additions can’t be practical? For anyone who hates cold bathroom floors in the mornings, heated floor tiling is a desirable upgrade. Also, although this can get pretty pricey, why not splurge on a steamer/sauna installed in your shower and bring the spa to you!

5. And the big ticket upgrade goes to… exhaust fans?

Yes, you read that right! The number one item people want to see in their bathrooms is an exhaust fan. These inexpensive add-ons can increase the value exponentially. Who would have thought? According to a report done by the National Association of Home Builders, 90% of those surveyed ranked exhaust fans as the number one feature homebuyers look for in a bathroom.

(check our our article on how solar panels can boost your home value)

So there you have it folks. Implementing these 5 renovations could add value for you and your family, as well as future buyers. Most of these tasks won’t break the bank, especially for those that are particularly handy and ready to take on DIY projects. Just remember, your bathroom is your sanctuary and should be a place of soothing and calm. Less really is more, and although you can and should have fun with your renovation projects, try not to get carried away with too many bells and whistles that could jeopardize resale value.

(click for inspiration from our bathroom renovation Pinterest board) 

8 Financial Steps To Take Before You Turn 30

College is over and late nights followed by even later mornings are all but a thing in the past. You may find yourself thinking about your future in ways that you never have before. Focusing on things like marriage, children, careers, homeownership or a combination of all. “What could this shift in thinking possibly mean?” you might ask. Yes, you got it, you’re growing up. Don’t worry this is good thing, but as your lifestyle and priorities change, certain financial practices should begin to change too. Below we have compiled a list of 9 financial steps to take before you hit the glorious 3-0.

Step 1: Make a game plan

You know the old adage, “those who fail to plan, plan to not retire until they’re 100.” I think that’s how it goes. The point is make a plan. If you’re starting out fresh in a new career or have been working for a few years, now is the time to start setting financial goals for yourself. Here’s the thing: if you have a goal with no written plan of action, you are far less likely to achieve it. Sit down, put pen to paper or download one of the many financial planning apps and get to it!

Step 2: Save your money

If you’re in your twenties I’m sure you still remember a time when Top Ramen and Cupcake wine were your college staples. They were good and they were cheap, right? So why give up a good thing? Ok, maybe you don’t have to revert back to your college diet but you should maintain a thrifty lifestyle even though you’re seeing an increase in your income. It can be tempting to go out and blow your disposable income simply because you can, but that doesn’t mean you should. Without many of the financial responsibilities you’ll eventually inherit as you grow older, now is the perfect time to build your savings account.

Step 3: Say goodbye to debt

Student loans are the absolute worst and if you went to a traditional four-year university, chances are you have some. In fact, 70% of college graduates have student loan debt so don’t worry, you’re in good company. Most repayment plans you set up with your lender are anywhere between 10 and 25 years! However, paying down interest and paying more than the minimum can get you debt free much sooner. Incorporate a three or five year payment strategy into your game plan and while you’re at it, add in your credit card debt. Start now and make it your goal to be debt free by 30!

(read about the growing debt for new grads)

Step 4: Establish and maintain good credit

We live in a credit based society. Say you want to take out a loan, lease a car, rent an apartment or even get a job, having a good credit history makes all of those things possible. Yup, you read that right. In today’s job market, employers checking candidates’ credit background is becoming a common practice to determine an individual’s financial responsibility. So if you’re one of the many college grads with less than stellar credit, there is hope! First and foremost, you must learn self-control. Having a credit card or two is a great way to build positive credit but it can also be tempting to spend well beyond what you can pay off in a month. If that is you, work on becoming more disciplined before applying for more credit. Nothing feels worse than maxing out a card that you can’t afford to pay off!

Step 5: Live below your means

No, that’s not a typo and I know what you’re thinking, but living within your means is the end goal, the after 30 goal, not the right now goal. Right now we are preparing for your healthy financial future and that means learning to live a frugal lifestyle; learning to live below your means. Ok, so how is it done?  First, write down all of your fixed expenses (e.g. bills, rent, utilities and other necessary and fixed payments). Next, write out all of your flexible expenses- this is where people get into trouble. Create a reasonable (spending less than you earn) budget for food, gas, entertainment and grooming, and then stick to it. Easier said than done, yes, but with the right motivation you’ll be reaping the benefits of increased savings and great spending habits that will pay-off in the long run.

Step 6: Emergencies happen; plan for it

Wouldn’t life be better if nothing bad ever happened? Yes, yes it would, but that’s not reality and unexpected car damages, job loss, or medical expenses are bound to happen at some point. Unfortunately for many, when tragedy strikes, few are prepared to take on the financial burdens. They then end up relying on credit, but with such crazy high interest rates your financial troubles could snowball and put you in a hole that’s tough to climb out of. This is why creating an emergency fund with about 6 months worth of living expenses is vital. However, with hard work and discipline, you could save that, and then some, for your emergency cushion before your 30th birthday.

Step 7: Don’t neglect your retirement fund

Savings, savings and more savings. I know it seems like a lot but it’s all setting you up for a happier, less stressful financial future. Speaking of the future, contributing to a retirement plan is the epitome of future planning, especially if you’re in your 20’s. You may think that retirement savings is a bit premature, but many experts would argue that any age after 20 is late.  Because of compounding interest, now really is the most lucrative time to invest in your future as you will reap more return than if you were to wait until you turned 30. Don’t believe me? Consider this popular example:

Two people save for retirement. One person puts away $3,000 per year from age 22 to 30, then nothing until 65. The other person started putting away $10,000 per year from age 30 to 65. They both have the about the same amount of money when they finish at age 65.

Step 8: Have a little fun

So maybe you think steps one through eight are anti-fun and maybe you’re right, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any wiggle room to have a little fun! In moderation of course. For many pre-30 year olds, you’re not bound by the same responsibilities that come with age. This is a prime time to have fun. We make money to spend it in some form or another and investing in fun is an investment in long term happiness.

(check out our article on how to reduce your debt-to-income ratio)

Growing Debt For New Grads

It’s 2016 and a fresh new crop of students brimming with knowledge and ready to enter the work force are merely weeks away from graduation! Many of these students will go on to secure well-paying jobs and begin growing their savings in order to invest in their very own home just like their parents before them, right? Well, maybe not. According to a study by Newamerica.org, the average student loan debt of a 2016 college graduate is $37,172, rising from 2015’s average of $35,051.

Individuals who have degrees fit the demographic of the typical first time homebuyer, but with such staggering debt being held by 70% of the graduating class and millennials making up 40% of the unemployed, we can only expect to see a more distinct drop in the amount of first time homebuyers. The Wall Street Journal released a report in 2014 that predicted student loan debt could decrease the annual national sales around 8%. This decrease in home sales is directly correlated to the nation’s decrease in economic growth. Big purchases, such as a home, are what drive our economy and with the country’s student loan debt totaling a whopping $1.2 trillion, we will continue to see the trickling effects this has on real estate purchases.

In a time where tough job markets with low earning potential and high student loan debt dictate the decisions of young Americans, homeownership is often looked at as unattainable. However, even with the daunting predictions ahead, there may be a silver lining. While economic prospects continue to improve, recent graduates may begin to see the advantages of investing money into a home. Since fixed mortgage rates have remained at or close to historic lows, renting isn’t always the most affordable option anymore. In fact, owning a home could become a valuable asset and means to build wealth.

Yes, there is a long journey ahead in providing affordable education, but don’t let student loan debt hold you back from investing in your future. There are still many options for young American graduates and the class of 2016 has a bright future ahead.

Americans Agree It’s a Good Time to Sell a Home

Pros And Cons Of Purchasing A Foreclosure

If a great deal on a new home is the most important factor in your home purchase, you may be considering purchasing a foreclosure. Many home buyers go this route so that they can buy properties that are significantly discounted in order to use the money saved on remodeling and renovations; however, there are big risks that come with purchasing foreclosed homes that you may want to consider. Pros As previously stated, foreclosed homes usually come with major discounts. Lenders don’t want to pay for the costs of upkeep and taxes to maintain the property for too long because they begin to lose money; this makes them a lot more willing to offer prices below the market rate. Many homes that go into foreclosure come at different price points, meaning you could purchase anything from a starter home to a mansion. These homes may even come with little to no damage or need for additional work. In these situations, buying a foreclosed property could reap major return on your investment because the value of your home is much higher than your purchase price. Cons With any chances of high reward must come chances of high risks, and unfortunately with foreclosures, there are many. Buying a foreclosure isn’t typically an easy process. These homes are sold as-is, meaning lenders won’t be held responsible for any issues with the current conditions of the property, and there are usually a number of issues. Foreclosed homes don’t have tenants to maintain upkeep so they can sit for an extended period of time (months or years) leaving them at risk for plumbing, mold, or wood rotting damages.

Another issue with foreclosed homes is the additional costs you inherit in back taxes, tax liens, and even legal fees for the eviction and removal of previous occupants. You may be held liable for any debts connected to your property and this could result in a hefty financial burden. So what should you do? Deciding to buy a foreclosure could reap major rewards and benefits, but the discounts may not outweigh the stress and added fees that go into making this kind of purchase. For a good property you will be competing with many potential buyers due to increased demand and buyer interest. Consider your finances and make preparations. Many mortgage lenders won’t offer a mortgage for a foreclosed home until certain repair requirements are metSo, the decision is ultimately up to you. After considering the pros and cons and consulting with professionals, do what you think is best and you could possibly end up with the home of your dreams or avoiding a housing nightmare!

What Cities Have The Best Housing Market?

The current housing market is experiencing an increase in home values due to a supply problem (housing demand is up, but housing supply is down). For first time homebuyers looking to purchase an affordable home, the task ahead may seem daunting, but there is hope for you yet.

Check out this list put together by Business Insider  of the nine best housing markets and see how these nine cities stack up:

9. Tampa, FL

Median Home Price: $163,600

8. Houston, TX

Median Home Price: $172,100

7. St. Louis, MO

Median Home Price: $141,900

6. Oklahoma City, OK

Median Home Price: $132,500

5. Chicago, IL

Median Home Price: $193,800

4. Cleveland, OH

Median Home Price: $125,500

3. Memphis, TN

Median Home Price: $112,100

2. Pittsburgh, PA

Median Home Price: $126,700

1.Indianapolis, IN

Median Home Price: $130,200

*All median home prices taken from Zillow Home Value Index

Home Ownership. How Soon Is Too Soon?

So, you’re debating whether you should purchase a home and many questions are running through your mind. “Is this the right decision for me?”, “Can I afford a house?”, “Is it worth it to own?”

Well, we have the answer for you! We don’t know. Deciding to purchase a house depends on a number of personal factors and only you can truly make that decision. However, we can list some of the benefits of homeownership that could help you determine what it really means to own your own home, and then you can decide if it’s right for you!

1. Consistent Payments

When renting, depending on the market rates, your monthly rent payments could increase from year to year. This means owning could possibly be a more cost efficient option and with mortgage loans that offer fixed rates, you don’t have to worry about an annual change in your monthly principal and interest payments.

2. Investments and Equity

A home is an investment. Real estate purchases may have long-term benefits; as you pay down the principal, you build equity in the home.

3. Security

With ownership, you have a certain level of security that you may not have with renting. When you own your property, you don’t have to worry about someone selling your home and putting you out, leaving you searching for a place to live.

4. Freedom

Part of the fun in homeownership is decorating and designing your living space to fit your tastes and needs. When you buy, you have the freedom to decide on home renovations and painting the walls, that you usually wouldn’t have if you were renting.

5. Pride

Owning your home can be a big accomplishment. Many experience a sense of pride after purchasing their first home. It is a huge milestone and something that you should be proud of.

What’s So Great About Solar Panels And Why Is Everyone Talking About Them?

Many question the benefits of going green when it comes to boosting the values of their home. Can improvements such as solar panels and energy conserving fixtures actually increase the value of a home?

Well, according to an article in Clean Technica a study shows that adding solar panels could increase your home’s resale value by thousands. Our society is more aware and concerned with environmental issues than we’ve ever been. As more and more individuals begin to understand the effects they may be having on the environment, a new market for green appliances opens up to the masses and solar panels are at the forefront.

According to The National Bureau of Economic Research, solar panels increase a home’s value roughly $20 for every $1 decrease in energy costs; this could save you $600 a year and increase the value of your home by $12,000. Although the price of adding a solar installation to your home may have a hefty upfront cost, it could end up being financially beneficial in the long run.

Four Tips On Negotiating A Home Purchase Price

For many inexperienced homebuyers, negotiating a final sale price can seem rather intimidating. Every homebuyer wants to make an offer most in their favor, which is why proper negotiation plays such an important role in the process. Here are four quick tips to help you get started on negotiations.

1. Understand the seller.

Perhaps the most important component of any negotiation, understanding your counterpart helps you estimate how much leverage you have and how low you can make an offer. If a seller is eager to sell the house as quickly as possible , you stand should firm in your negotiations and stress your willingness to buy the home immediately.

2. Research home prices in the area.

Before entering into any negotiation, you want to be sure that you have access to all useful information. In real estate, the average price of surrounding homes provides a reliable starting point for negotiations and helps you pick out houses that are listed well above market value.

3. Keep your options open.

All too often, first time homebuyers fall in love with a property and end up giving away far too much in the negotiation process. Instead of putting all your eggs in one basket, keep several options in mind. Not only will you avoid becoming locked in to one property, but letting the seller know about other properties of interest can give you leverage in a negotiation.

4. Don’t let ego get in the way.

By their very nature, negotiations require a certain level of competition between the two sides. As such, it is important to stay focused on buying a home at a favorable price and not let ego get in the way of common sense. Instead of insisting on a maximum price and risking losing the home, stay focused on the property itself and consider whether or not the price fits into your budget.