Friday, December 6, 2019

5 Last-Minute Ways to Prepare Your Home for Holiday Guests

The holidays have a way of sneaking up on us. Before you know it, your family and friends have arrived for a long weekend. No need to panic or stress! Here are five easy ways to make your home guest-ready for the holidays in 15 minutes or less.

1.Guest Room Prep

Last Minute Ways to Prepare Your Home for Holiday Guests

First things first, head to the guest room to make sure the beds are made and the pillows are in place. Adding a throw blanket for extra coziness is always a good idea. Here's another tip: After guests leave, wash the sheets and immediately put them back on the beds so they're ready for the next occasion.

2. Add a Basket of Magazines

Last Minute Ways to Prepare Your Home for Holiday Guests
Place a basket of magazines in the guest room. Although we all enjoy being together, downtime is necessary during the holidays with family. Am I right, or am I right?

3. Prepare Baked Goods

Last Minute Ways to Prepare Your Home for Holiday Guests
It's time to head to the store! In addition to meals I've prepared, I like to have easy grab-and-go food on hand. Fresh fruit and muffins are always a crowd-pleaser in the mornings. When it comes to bagels and muffins, I try to buy a variety of different kinds to give our guests a choice. Coffee is definitely flowing as well.

4. Add Fresh Flowers

Last Minute Ways to Prepare Your Home for Holiday Guests
While I'm at the grocery store, I pick up fresh flowers. I usually purchase a bouquet for the kitchen table and pinch off a few buds or sprigs of greenery for a single vase for the guest bedroom or bath. Store-bought flowers save me an extra trip and are usually very affordable.

5. Stock the Bar

Last Minute Ways to Prepare Your Home for Holiday Guests
Stock your home bar with plenty of sparkling waters and fruit juices in addition to spirits. Everyone has their own drink of choice, so it's best to be prepared. Then sit back, relax, and enjoy your guests. Happy holidays!

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By Laura Trevey

Monday, November 18, 2019

10 First-time Homebuyer Mistakes

Mistake 10: Not Budgeting for Your First Home Loan

Allison Michael Orenstein/The Image Bank/Getty Images                      Figuring out your budget ahead of time will save you headaches in the future.
Allison Michael Orenstein/The Image Bank/Getty Images Figuring out your budget ahead of time will save you headaches in the future.
ALLISON MICHAEL ORENSTEIN/THE IMAGE BANK/GETTY IMAGES
Homeownership may seem like a wise alternative to renting, but it's not necessarily going to be cheaper -- at least in the short term. If you're like most people and need to take out a loan to buy a house, you'll have to make monthly mortgage payments. It's a common mistake to assume what you can or can't afford. Before you make this decision, take a good, hard look at your income and expenses to find out the truth about what you can comfortably afford to pay every month for the next 15 or 30 years.
The easiest way to do this is to make a budget. This entails listing all your income, including wage and investments as well as all of your expenses, from monthly payments to food and even hair cuts. To figure out how much you can afford per month on something like a mortgage, it's a good idea to measure your budget in what you make and spend in the time span of a month. But just a month of income and expenses will only be a snapshot of your financial picture. Also look at a few months of your financial activity to consider non-monthly expenses like vacations, wedding and birthday gifts.

Mistake 9: Not Performing a Credit Check Before Homebuying

Protecting your credit means more than shielding your information, but also actively making sure your potential lenders are seeing the right facts.
Protecting your credit means more than shielding your information, but also actively making sure your potential lenders are seeing the right facts.
MARTIN POOLE/DIGITAL VISION/GETTY IMAGES
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­So you thought you did away with grades and competitive scoring when you finished school? Turns out, a three-digit summary of your creditworthiness may be the obstacle or the key to your perfect home. Despite your present sense of financial responsibility, if you have a dark past of not always paying bills on time, it could mean you're going to have a very hard time securing a good loan during your house hunt.

Mistake 8: Not Understanding Housing Market Trends

When there are more homes for sale than buyers, prices typically go down, and this is a smart time to buy.
When there are more homes for sale than buyers, prices typically go down, and this is a smart time to buy.
STOCKBYTE/GETTY IMAGES

Even with a clear idea of their own financial status -- what they can afford and how trustworthy they will appear to a lending institution -- many people fail to pay attention to the big picture. If you're anxious to buy now just because of your own financial situation or restrict yourself to a particular location, you may not see the forest for the trees.





Mistake 7: Not Getting a Preapproved Home Loan

Getting pre-approved will mean that more sellers will take your interest and especially your bids seriously.
Getting pre-approved will mean that more sellers will take your interest and especially your bids seriously.
ISTOCKPHOTO/CHRISTINE BALDERAS
It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking you first find the house you want, and then you can start thinking about the loan process, especially if you've already taken care of your credit. However, it's not quite that simple.
It's a good idea to put yourself in a seller's shoes. As a seller, you may be taking in several bids and trying to cipher through and compare them; you may not base it solely on amount. Were you to accept a suspiciously high offer, the buyers may not be able to live up to their bid. Once the buyer actually goes through the loan application process, he may not get as much financing as he hoped, or promised. As the seller, you've already put a lot of time and effort into selling your home, and you'd like to finish things up without too much hassle and delay -- especially before those other, more legitimate-looking bids move on.

Mistake 6: Not Considering Home Resale Value

Put yourself in the seller's shoes and consider how easily you'd be able to turn around and sell the house yourself.
Put yourself in the seller's shoes and consider how easily you'd be able to turn around and sell the house yourself.
SOMOS/VEER/GETTY IMAGES

As a homebuyer, the process of selling a house may not cross your mind yet. After making the difficult decision to buy your first house, you may even feel obligated to live there forever.






Mistake 5: Blindly Following Your Realtor's Advice

Get familiar with the role of a real estate agent to understand what his or her motivations and take their words with a grain of salt.
Get familiar with the role of a real estate agent to understand what his or her motivations and take their words with a grain of salt.
FLYING COLOURS LTD/DIGITAL VISION/GETTY IMAGES
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As we've seen, first-time homebuyers have a lot of confusing matters to deal with. From fixing credit to trying to figure out complex housing market trends, they have a lot on their plate during what is already a stressful financial decision. This is why real estate agents, who try to facilitate the process, appear as godsends to some buyers.

Mistake 4: Trusting a Verbal Agreement When Homebuying

A handshake won't hold up in court if a seller decides to go back on his word, but a signed agreement will.
A handshake won't hold up in court if a seller decides to go back on his word, but a signed agreement will.
ISTOCKPHOTO/JOSELITO BRIONES
You've jumped through all the hoops -- you did the research, got pre-approved, found the house you want and put in an impressive bid to show you're serious. After some back-and-forth haggling, finally you get the call -- the seller has accepted your bid! You crack open a bottle of bubbly to celebrate all your hard work.
A day later, you rush over to finish off the paperwork only to find when you get there that the seller has backed out. A few hours after the seller agreed to your offer, another buyer swooped in and outbid you. You've fallen for the oldest mistake in the book -- trusting a verbal agreement.

Mistake 3: Forgetting About the Hidden Costs of Homebuying

Fees often pop up in the fine print of numerous agreements homebuyers sign.
Fees often pop up in the fine print of numerous agreements homebuyers sign.
DAVID GOULD/GETTY IMAGES

If everything goes according to plan, you may be closing a deal and reaching the end of your homebuying journey. Even here, you could make the common mistake of thinking all of this will be painless. Closing costs, which include several fees that cover final housekeeping matters, are just one example of hidden fees that many first-time homebuyers neglect to prepare for. They can cost you a few thousand dollars or up to 5 percent of the purchase price [source: Greary].




Mistake 2: Skipping the Home Inspection

Getting a professional to inspect a house is the only way to ensure there are no major problems. ­
Getting a professional to inspect a house is the only way to ensure there are no major problems. ­
PETER DAZELEY/DIGITAL VISION/GETTY IMAGES
We learned in Mistake #4 not to take someone at his or her word until you get a written, signed agreement. Likewise, when you're buying a house for the first time, you can't just depend on asking the seller or real estate agent about problems with the foundation or plumbing. Not only might the seller or agent be less than candid about the answers, but chances are they're not construction experts.
If you skip the step of getting your own professional inspection, you risk living in a home that costs almost as much in repairs as you paid for it in the first place. As much as you're attracted to unique fixtures and structures in old houses, they may turn into a major liability.

Mistake 1: Falling In Love with a House

Who ever loved that loved not at first sight? But beware what a home's love spell can do to your wallet.
Who ever loved that loved not at first sight? But beware what a home's love spell can do to your wallet.
STEWART COHEN/RISER/GETTY IMAGES

Falling in love can be an amazing thing. It makes you happy to be alive and allows you to see the inner beauty of another. Falling in love can also be a terrible thing. It makes a fool out of you and blinds you to someone's faults until the spell wears off and it's too late. Likewise, although it sounds ideal, falling in love with a house could be your worst financial mistake. It easily leads to a Mr. Blandings syndrome, where you stubbornly ignore the solid advice of friends and experts.



Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Home Escape Plan In Case Of Fire

Every Family Needs An Escape Plan In Case Of Fire

 

Do you have an escape plan? First responders believe every family should plan for and practice a safe escape in case of a fire in their home.
It doesn’t have to be complicated, according to the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department in Virginia:
  • Make sure you have working smoke alarms.
  • Map out and designate two ways out of each room.
  • Agree on a meeting place outside.
  • Know alternatives for family members needing extra help.
  • Make sure to include children in the planning process.
“We find generally that people, including kids, tend to react the way they’re trained,” said Bill Delainey with Fairfax County Fire and Rescue. “So, another important part of escape planning is to actually practice your plan…so it sort of becomes second nature.”

Your first exit route should be the way you come and go every day, Delainey said. But, if the easiest way out, such as the front door, is blocked, here are some things to consider:
  • Can kids reach window locks?
  • Can they open and unlock doors?
  • If a door requires a key, do you know where it is, or leave it in the lock?
“You want to figure this out before the fire happens because, chances are, you’re not going to think of it as things are happening and there’s fire and there’s smoke and there’s heat, and you’re sort of panicked and not really thinking clearly,” Delainey said.
Modern homes and furnishings tend to burn more quickly than older construction. Fires in newer homes may leave you only two or three minutes to escape.
That’s why Delainey said it’s best to have smoke alarms on every level of your home, in every sleeping area, ideally interconnected through wiring or wirelessly.
Residential fire sprinklers increase the likelihood of surviving a house fire. Also, close bedroom doors before you go to sleep. Delainey describes a fire earlier this year in which a young girl survived without a scratch or bit of soot on her, because her bedroom door was shut.
“In her bedroom, basically you couldn’t tell there was a fire in the home where every other part of the home is all black and sooty and everything,” Delainey said. “So, close before you doze.”
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