Real Estate News

    • Curtain Alternatives to Dress Your Windows

      25 February 2020

      Looking to dress your windows with something other than curtains? The following ideas are fun, great for creative expression and relatively inexpensive.

      Screens. These thin, partially transparent screens can be pulled down when you need them and still let some light through.

      Bright frames. Don't want any type of coverage but looking for a color pop? Paint bright wooden frames (think pictures frames) and fit them around your window for flare.

      Canopies. Instead of hanging curtains on a rod, fix two long sheaths of fabric from a bed crown hung above the window and then draw them back like curtains. This looks particularly lovely behind a bed.

      Beads. Grab a funky beaded curtain, available in all shapes and sizes—a great addition to a kid's bedroom or playroom.

      Frosted glass. If you're looking at a room with windows that always need covering—like those above a bathtub or the bed—consider installing panes of frosted glass for full-time coverage.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • How to Manage Your Mortgage After a Natural Disaster

      25 February 2020

      Getting in touch with your insurance agent after your home has been destroyed in a fire, hurricane or other natural disaster is likely to be one of the first steps you’ll make after letting your family know you’re safe. Your next call should be to your mortgage lender.

      While banks can have a reputation for being hard-nosed when it comes to being paid on time, they don’t want to come off as calloused by foreclosing on someone who lost their home to a hurricane. However, mortgage bills are still due to be paid after a home has been destroyed, whether an insurance company covers the loss or not.

      Money can be tight after losing your home in a disaster, and paying your mortgage may be difficult. But unless you’ve lost your job or can’t work for a while, your lender will likely expect your mortgage payment to be paid after a disaster. However, they’re likely to work with you and should be open to deferring payments for a few months, sometimes called a "mortgage holiday" or forbearance—it’s a temporary suspension of payments for a set period.

      You may not even have to contact your lender. Banks may be proactive and offer the deferment to you as a sign of good will after your home is destroyed. Your bank will know if your home has been hit by a disaster if a claim is paid by your insurer in a covered loss because the bank controls the payout from the insurance company.

      While the insurance settlement check will be payable to both the borrower and the lender, the lender controls the payout until the borrower pays off the loan in full. Any money left can be used to rebuild or buy another property.

      Rebuilding can require a building loan for the construction of the new house, and these can have a higher interest rate than a traditional mortgage. Once construction is completed, any remaining debt can be put into a new home mortgage. If the borrower decides to leave, they’ll still own the land on the vacant lot.

      The interest clock is still ticking during a mortgage payment delay, which can last for a year or possibly longer. Interest is still being charged during that time, and the deferred interest that accrues will either be added with extra loan payments for that mortgage holiday, or with increased payments during the existing loan. Either way, expect your monthly mortgage to increase after the deferred interest is computed into a new payment.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Energy-Efficient Ideas to Upgrade Your Home

      25 February 2020

      (Family Features) Energy bills are likely among the largest expenses for homeowners, but you can take action to lower those costs. During a remodel, a certified contractor can help you make smart decisions when it comes to selecting appliances, windows and insulation for your projects. 

      Though upgrades made with efficiency in mind can vary depending on the climate you live in, the biggest energy users are typically the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems and water heater, all of which make up about 60% of a typical home’s energy budget. 

      Learn how you can reduce your home’s energy reliance and environmental impact with these tips from the experts at the National Association of the Remodeling Industry:

      Heating and Cooling
      Climate control is one of the largest home energy users. A programmable thermostat is a simple starting point and can save up to one-third of heating and cooling costs. Cutting-edge models can even learn your family’s behaviors and tweak usage for maximum savings. Additional ways to save energy include sealing leaky ducts, cleaning or changing air filters regularly and replacing your furnace or air conditioner with an energy-efficient model, particularly if your heating and cooling systems are more than 15 years old. 

      Insulation
      Studies show that only 20% of homes built before 1980 were well-insulated. Depending on when your home was built, adding insulation in the attic and walls can be one of the fastest and most cost-effective ways to reduce energy waste. Not only does better insulation reduce energy loss and improve comfort, it’s an upgrade that generally adds to the value of your home with an estimated 95% return on your investment. 

      Windows
      High-performance windows not only lower heating and cooling bills, they also reduce heat gain during warmer months and add a layer of insulation when you need to keep the heat inside. Triple-pane, Low-E insulated frame windows can save 33% of the heating cost for a typical home in cooler climates, and in hotter environments, double-pane, low solar-gain windows can reduce cooling costs by up to 32%. 

      Lighting
      The average house dedicates 5-10% of its energy budget to lighting. To cut your use, switch to LED lights, turn off unneeded lights and, where possible, use natural light. Other measures, like relying on task lights and installing motion detectors, can help further limit your lighting-related energy usage. 

      Appliances
      The refrigerator is a major energy drain, accounting for up to 15% of the energy bill in some homes, particularly models that are 15 years old or older. Design plays a major role in a refrigerator’s efficiency; it needs adequate air flow for optimal function. Be realistic about your needs and only buy as big a unit as you require. Be aware that ice makers and dispensers not only add to the up-front cost, they’re also less efficient. As with any appliance, shop for a model that offers as many energy-saving features as you can afford.

      Landscaping
      Trees positioned to reduce summer sun and winter wind can reduce a household’s energy use by 25% or more. In summer, trees can lower air temperature as much as 9 F through shading and evapotranspiration. In winter, a well-designed landscape can cut heating bills by about one-third. 

      Find more tips for creating a more energy-efficient home at remodelingdoneright.com.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Making the Most of Your Credit Card Rewards

      24 February 2020

      Using a credit card to earn rewards is pretty simple. Just use the card to buy things and you’ll get cash back or reward points from your credit card company.

      Getting that free money of 5 percent or even more on every purchase is easy, but there are some things you should pay attention to if you want to get the most rewards possible.

      Register for Bonus Categories
      To get the most out of a cash-back credit card, look for a card that gives bonus rewards on certain purchases.

      While 1 percent cash back is common on all purchases, some cards offer a 4 percent bonus for a total of 5 percent for buying from certain types of merchants. These can include restaurants, travel, grocery stores, gas stations, airfare or hotels.

      The categories may change every quarter, with airline purchases earning 5 percent back for three months, then changing to movie theatre purchases for the next three months, for example. The category may even have a cash back limit.

      To get in on these bonus categories, some cards require you to opt in each quarter and manually select which category you want to earn money back on. Some credit cards make it as simple as registering your card online, logging in to your account and clicking a button.

      Use the Right Card for Bonuses
      If you have a few credit cards, it can be difficult to juggle them and remember which card has which bonus for the purchase you’re making. With the bonus categories changing each quarter, it can be difficult to remember which card to use to get the most cash back from it.

      Using a cash-back card that you thought had a bonus at gas stations but instead had a bonus at department stores can leave you with a lot less cash back than you thought you’d be earning.

      Avoid an Annual Fee and Interest
      Paying an annual fee on a rewards card is normal, but be aware of how much more money you’ll have to spend to earn enough cash back or rewards points to make up the difference between the fee and what a no-fee card charges.

      If a cash-back credit card has an annual fee of $75, for example, and pays 5 percent cash back for grocery store purchases, it would require spending $1,500 to get that $75 fee back. That’s a lot of groceries to buy before getting money in your pocket.

      Another area where cash rewards can be eaten up is by card holders who don’t pay off their balances in full each month or on time and pay interest on their credit card balance. People who pay interest each month are often charged a higher interest rate on their cash-back card than if they did the same thing on a credit card with no rewards.

      If you regularly carry a balance on your credit card, look for a card with the lowest interest rate. Don’t look for one with rewards.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Why You Should Reconsider That Store Credit Card

      24 February 2020

      Few good decisions happen when you’re rushed to make them. This is especially true at the checkout line of a department store, when you’re tired from waiting in line and just want to buy your things and go.

      All of a sudden, the cashier catches your attention by dangling potential savings in your face: “Would you like a 75 percent discount today by applying for our store credit card?”

      However much that one-time discount is, your response should be “No, thank you,” and you should pay and leave. Why? Here are some reasons you don’t want that store credit card:

      High interest rates. The interest rate on a store credit card will likely be higher than a traditional one you get directly from a bank. Why? Because of customers with a poor credit score, the store is taking a chance that they won’t make payments, so a higher interest rate is charged to everyone. The store-branded credit card may also charge higher late fees if a payment isn’t made on time. The good news is that it’s probably not going to charge you an annual fee.

      It can only be used at that company. You can’t use a Nordstrom credit card at Macys, Kohl’s or any other store. Department store credit cards can only be used at the store issuing them, which can be great if you shop there often and the card offers you discounts that you wouldn’t get otherwise. But if you don’t shop there a lot, then using it for one purchase and not paying it off in full when the bill comes will negate your savings.

      You may stop comparison shopping. Having a credit card tied to one store may encourage you to shop there more often or buy things you can’t afford. If it leads to the avoidance of other stores, it could prevent you from comparing prices and not getting the best deal.

      When the Card Is Right for You
      If you’re planning on making a major purchase at a store that has a branded credit card, it can be worthwhile if the card allows you to pay off the purchase over 12 months or so without paying any interest. This can be the best time to use a store’s credit card, as it’s like borrowing money for free. The key is to make monthly payments—whether required or not—and pay it off before the interest-free period ends. If you don’t, the card may charge you interest on the entire purchase from the date you opened the card.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.