REMAX 440/Central Blog

How to Design Your Own Personal Home Office

February 1, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, February 1, 2011--For those who work on the run, a home office is a perfect asset to consider. When designed carefully, a home office can offer you flexibility, convenience and saved time as you crunch to meet deadlines or carry on your business day. If you are thinking about creating your own home office, take these tips into consideration.

Always remember that privacy is important. Choose a location in your house that is far from the living room, kitchen, television areas and childrens bedrooms or play areas. Your house most likely will not shut down simply because you are working there. Family activity is to be expected, so carefully choose your home office location with these things in mind.

Is proximity to the front door important? It is if you are expecting to receive clients at home or have home office meetings with fellow co-workers. If either of these is the case, make sure your home office is only a short distance from the main door of your house. Avoid having clients, prospects or co-workers walk up stairs or past bedrooms. Even though you are at home, you can still provide and ensure a level of professionalism, organization and accommodation.

How much space you need will also determine the location of your office. Measure desks, cabinets, bookshelves and any other furniture you want to move in before doing so. Make a tentative plan of where you want to put things, and keep in mind youll need electrical outlets for many of your electronics. If your chosen location seems too small, you may want to think again.

Getting electrical assistance is highly recommended. Your home office will probably need more outlets than it had before it was an office. Power strips can be unreliable and sometimes can lead to power outages. Get expert advice and assistance. Have a professional add more outlets if you require them. Electrical issues are always better left for the pros.

Adding some soundproofing can certainly be a source of sanity. By replacing the drywall with a special soundproofing variety, you can be well on your way to minimizing auditory distractions. If that isnt good enough, you can also replace the door with a new solid-core one. Both of these efforts will ensure that you hear less of your family or any other possible distraction. Concentration is key.

Dont forget to decorate. If you are going to be spending lots of time there, and especially is you are planning to have clients or co-workers drop by, take the time to choose a nice dcor. A little bit of decorating goes a long way, and by adding color to the room, it will provide a cozy feela nice blend of work and home.

Your home office could be a fantastic personal decision for you, so do it right. By spending the time planning and setting up, you can be assured that your office will be a positive haven and work environment.

Source: Gannett News Service


Tips to Efficiently Unpack After a Move

February 1, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, February 1, 2011--When people usually think about the moving process, planning and packing are often high on the to-do list. Once they arrive at the new location, some movers don't place as high of an importance on the other side of the spectrum: unpacking.

Although unpacking always unravels over time, it's important to be organized during this stage of the process as well. Unpacking essentials is a key first step. If a moving company was hired to complete the move, chances are these essentials are items you moved yourself. Find the right spot for them, or designate a spot in the house to temporarily keep them.

Unpacking items and placing them in the right spot is also important. Don't simply take things out of boxes and figure on finding a spot for them later. Unpack boxes when you know where you want to place the items. By finding the right spot the first time, you'll save yourself a lot of shuffling around in the future.

Don't feel pressured to unpack everything in one single day. Once the essentials are taken care of, you can take your time with the rest. The process could unravel on an as-needed basis, or organize your unpacking on a room-to-room basis. Whichever you decide, a solid plan will help split the job into pieces and keep the process flowing.

After your important items are spoken for, the kitchen is a great place to start working on the rest. Your family is going to need to eat, so properly placing dishes, utensils, pots and pans in the right place is of the utmost importance. If you traveled with any perishables, unpack those first. Once the kitchen is complete, you can start eating regular meals and have a great break room for times when you feel overwhelmed.

Fill up closets as soon as possible. Any items you can store away will greatly benefit you by providing you with more space to work in. Vacuum cleaners, jackets, dust pans or any other miscellaneous items can easily be stored here, decreasing the amount of clutter lying around in rooms and hallways.

Slowly but surely, your new home will truly become your own. Set daily goals for yourself in order to break down the work load, and assign tasks to other family members. By tackling the work piece by piece, you will come closer and closer to completing your unpacking and making brand new memories in your home.

Source: Movers.com Blog


Remodelers Expect Market Gains During 2011

February 1, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, February 1, 2011--The latest National Association of Home Builders' (NAHB) Remodeling Market Index (RMI) edged up to 41.5 in the fourth quarter of 2010, compared to 40.8 in the third quarter. An RMI below 50 indicates that more remodelers say market activity is lower compared to the prior quarter than report it is higher. The RMI has been running below 50 since the final quarter of 2005.

The overall RMI combines ratings of current remodeling activity with indicators of future activity like calls for bids. In the fourth quarter, the RMI component measuring current market conditions stayed flat at 43.3 from 43.4 in the previous quarter. The RMI component measuring future indicators of remodeling business increased, to 39.7 from 38.1 in the previous quarter.

"Remodelers are starting to see an uptick in interest from consumers who are considering future remodeling projects," says NAHB Remodelers Chairman Bob Peterson, CGR, CAPS, CGP, a remodeler from Ft. Collins, Colo. "Homeowners are also showing more willingness to undertake larger remodeling projects."

All but one index for future market conditions improved during the fourth quarter. Calls for bids jumped to 47.2 (from 42.9), along with a backlog of remodeling jobs at 42.6 (from 37.2), and appointments for proposals at 43.1 (from 41.9).

"Remodeling activity has been rising slowly since the first quarter of 2010. Expected improvements in the job market and the overall economy are beginning to increase homeowners' confidence and remodelers are seeing indications that business will pick up," says NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "More remodeling jobs will unfold as consumers in more secure financial positions enter the remodeling market. A more robust recovery in residential remodeling will depend upon future improvements in labor and credit markets."

Current conditions indices for remodeling improved in two regions: Midwest 54.3 (from 44.9 in the third quarter) and South 45.8 (from 42.3). Future market indicators grew significantly in nearly all regions: Northeast 49.5 (from 34.0); Midwest 56.1 (from 39.4); and South 47.0 (from 37.9). Major additions also expanded to 48.6 (from 45.8), but minor additions dipped slightly to 43.9 (from 46.4), while maintenance and repair stayed flat at 37.0 (from 37.1).

For more information, visit www.nahb.org.


Tips for Selling a Home in Todays Market

January 31, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, January 31, 2011--For homeowners contemplating selling their homes in the current market, there are ways to maximize the final sale price and get the home sold quickly so that you can move on to a new home. While many factors come into play with finding the right buyer at the right time, there are many things sellers can do to help put the odds in their favor.

1. Do not overprice the home. Buyers today are looking for a bargain, and the seller in the end will likely have to bring the price down to meet market demands. The longer the home sits on the market, the stronger the negotiating position buyers have.

2. Select Internet-friendly pricing. More than 80% of home buyers begin their real estate searches online. Most real estate sites filter the prices in $25,000 to $50,000 increments. So while a creative price of $555,777 may grab attention, buyers who set their search maximum filter at $550,000 will exclude it. Additionally, prices ending in 000 (such as $500,000) tend to sell at a larger discount than homes ending in 500 (such as $524,500).

3. List the home on a Friday. Most buyers are checking out new listings on Fridays so they can see what is new for the weekend.

4. Occupy or stage the home. Buyers appreciate a home that is well attended. A vacant home typically feels cold and empty, while one that is still occupied has a warm, cozy feel, attracting more buyers. However, keep the personalization minimal; having neutral decor and paint colors will make it easier for a buyer to visualize their own style in the home. If a seller moves to a new residence before selling the old residence, it is a good idea to have the home professionally staged as if someone still lives in it.

5. Monitor local foreclosures. Foreclosures are costing sellers money and have become very aggressive opponents in todays market. If the sellers neighborhood has a lot of foreclosures, wait until they are sold before listing the home, if at all possible. Most banks are extremely eager to sell, thus creating an underpriced competitor. If the seller cannot wait to list the home, it will need to be priced competitively with the foreclosures, which can dig significantly into the homes equity.

6. Keep the home neat and clean. With so many foreclosures on the market today, buyers are seeing homes at their worst. If the home is presented in the best possible way, it will attract more positive attention.

7. Keep records. Foreclosures do not come with any disclosures. Sellers who keep updated records, photos and permits handy for the buyer to review will make them feel much more confident about buying the home, giving the seller a competitive advantage over foreclosed properties in the neighborhood.

Though you cant control market conditions, there are certain aspects of selling your home that you can grab a hold of. By following these tips, you can be one step closer to selling your home at a reasonable price.

Source: Relocation.com


Steps to Take to Improve Your Credit Score

January 31, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, January 31, 2011--Your credit score can affect many aspects of your life. The biggest, perhaps, is the ability to secure a mortgage when youre in the market for a home. The better the score you have, the less your debt will cost you in the long run. It's important to take control of your credit score before beginning the buying process. If you want to boost your score, here are a few tips to get that number heading in the right direction.

If you don't know what your score is or you are worried it might have errors, don't hesitate to contact one of the big three credit bureaus and request a report. Each bureau is required to give every requesting consumer one free report once a year. Check your report over for errors and get them corrected as soon as possible. Send the credit agency a certified letter explaining what is wrong and include any documents that may support your claim. You don't want your score to suffer due to inaccurate records.

If you have missed any payments in the past, catch up as soon as you can. Within a few months, your score will improve if you get current and stay current. The negative weight on your score will lessen over time, erasing the negative marks from your record for good. Once you are current, do everything you can to ensure that payments are on time.

Going forward, keep your balances below your limit. Just because you have a certain credit limit doesn't mean you have to use it all. The less available credit you use, the better. Some credit card companies have been lowering credit amounts without telling consumers. If this happens to you, it could negatively affect your credit score because your utilization ratio will increase. The bureaus recommend using 33% below your available credit. Remember, a small amount of debt on multiple cards is better than having just one or two cards with a large bulk of debt. Spread out your spending, and keep those balances low.

Keep old accounts open...even if you don't use them often. Part of your score is based on how old your accounts are. Closing your older accounts erases the credit history that was accumulated through those accounts. To prevent a credit card company from closing your account, use it every now and then to keep it active. Even miniscule charges will suffice and protect your account and history.

Don't be afraid to check your score as often as you want. Checking your own score is seen as a "soft inquiry" by the credit bureaus. By checking often and properly managing your debt, you can be well on your way to raising your credit score.

Source: WalletPop


Organization is Key when Finding a New Home

January 31, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, January 31, 2011--When trying to find a new home, a well-thought out strategy is always beneficial to have. By being organized, you can save yourself lots of valuable time and narrow your search as you cruise through the buying process. To help you get prepared, here are a few things to think about before going to that first showing.

Know exactly what you want. What type of home will suit you and your family? Are you looking to buy new or buy an existing home? What style do you want, and how handy are you to fix things up? All of these questions are important to ask yourself. Don't forget to consider commuting time, school districts, price ranges, and recreation and entertainment as well. With a little introspection, you can communicate to your REALTOR exactly what you're looking for and you can save yourself and your agent lots of time. The quicker you declare your wants and needs, the quicker you'll be living in your new home.

Figure out the finances. It's imperative that you know exactly what you can afford. Most lenders claim that you can afford a home priced two or three times your gross income, depending on location. Create an estimated budget beforehand so you can know which homes are within your price range. Also, be sure to meet with a lender to get a prequalification letter. This letter will tell you exactly how much you are eligible to borrow. Waiting until after you've found your "dream home" to do so may turn out to be a devastating mistake.

Determine when you want to spring into action. Having a timelime is a surefire way to achieve your buying goals. If you already own, you'll need to incorporate selling as a factor. If you are building your credit, that may take additional time as well. Although it may be difficult to juggle buying, selling and multiple closings at the same time, a solid game plan will be the key to your success.

Try to remain realistic about your decisions. Refrain from being closed-minded about new possibilities. It's good to be loyal to your wants and expectations, but entertaining some new ideas may help you in the long run. There's no such thing as the "perfect" home, so try not to let "wow"-factors make the decision for you.

Planning for your future is the best way to guarantee that you'll find a home that will make you happy. By thinking long-term and mapping out your buying strategy, you will save time and facilitate the process considerably.

Source: HouseLogic


How to Reduce Indoor Air Pollution

January 28, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, January 28, 2011In cities and the suburbs, sometimes the air inside a home is more of a problem than the air outdoors. The sources of air pollution can come from anywhereair fresheners you use to mask various odors, your shedding cat or dog, dusty furniture (and the aerosol spray you use to clean it), dust mites in bedding, a poorly ventilated kitchen range, and so on. If you want to neutralize and refresh your home, consider these easy steps to reduce the fumes.

Prevent problems. To cut down on dust mites, put your pillows, mattresses and box springs in dust mite-proof covers. Wash dirty or dusty laundry in the hottest water. By doing so youll not only cut down on dust around the home, but youll protect your family from any sort of related allergens from popping up as well.

Ventiliate. Cooking, cleaning, using hair spray and polishing your nails can release volatile organic compounds that are linked to a variety of health problems. Use fans in the kitchen and bathroom to reduce your exposure and minimize humidity that can cause mold and mildew. Before you use your fireplace, make sure the flue damper is wide open. Poor ventilation can allow pollutants to stay in the air.

Ban smoking. Don't smoke or allow others to do so in your home or car. Smoke is a hard smell to get out of clothes, fabrics, carpeting and drapery. The clinging odor will last awhile. Prevent any sort of lingering smell by not allowing smoke in your home.

Eliminate odors, don't mask them. Find the source of bad smells (bad food, musty sheets or blankets, pet-related smells, etc) and tackle the problem the old fashioned wayby cleaning it up. Use a box of baking soda in the area instead of air fresheners, which cost more and can contain VOCs and phthalates.

Make your cleaning count. Because dust can harbor pollen, pet dander, bacteria, mites, mold and mildew, dust furnishings regularly with a damp rag or an electrostatically charged duster. Vacuum often, ideally with a low-emissions vacuum. There is no replacement for a hardcore cleanup.

Control critters. Seal cracks and crevices and properly seal and put food away. You'll be less apt to attract pests and need to use pesticides. To minimize your exposure to pet dander, banish pets from sleeping areas and upholstered furniture.

Rethink pricey fixes. There's little medical evidence that an air cleaner alone can ease allergies and asthma; try low-cost solutions first. There's also no proof that cleaning ducts prevents health problems or that dirty ducts increase airborne particulates.

If your home is stuffy and you want to decrease the amount of air pollution, try simple tactics first. By keeping your house clean and tidy, youre already halfway there to improving your familys air quality.

Source: Consumer Reports Health Blog


Protect Your Home with These Home Security Tips

January 28, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, January 28, 2011For any homeowner, protecting your property and possessions should be one of your main concerns. Extra security for your home will not only protect your things, but your loved ones as well. With these added precautions you can rest a little easier knowing your property is protected against intruders and other dangers that may lurk around your home.

For exterior doors: *Install sturdy doors that are either solid wood or metal-clad instead of hollow units. Hollow doors are best used indoors, seeing as they can give way to a powerful shoulder blow or kick. *Security glazing is a smart idea for extra protection for glass insets on doors. The heavy-duty plastic will prevent someone from smashing the glass and unlocking the door from the inside. *Provide additive locks for sliding glass doors. Key operated locks can be added that secure the bottom of the door to its frame. This prevents the door from being forced open. (Safety Tip: Make sure these fortified doors are not part of a fire escape plan, as the extra security may slow down escaping family members.)

Lighting *Installing motion sensors provides additional lighting to your property, which is helpful to welcome guests and a deterrent for potential lurkers. *Illuminate your address numbers so that police and emergency crews can quickly and easily find your home.

Locks *Reinforce all keyed locks with a dead bolt. Make sure the dead bolt you add extends at least one inch when locked, to resist heavy blows. Beveled rims on the lock will prevent it from being compromised with pliers. Mounting screws should be three inches or longer to prevent damage from strikes. *Consider an alarm system. Alarms that have loud rings are effective, or some systems will silently alert the alarm company or police if the circuit is t ripped. Compare various systems to see what would be best for your home.

Windows *Add a key-operated lock onto windows in exchange to the normal thumb-operated latches on your windows. This will secure the windows top and bottom panels so that the unit cant be forced open. *Consider safety bars for your windows, depending on the area. These will provide extra protection for ground floor windows of your home or apartment. You can choose a style and material that will best suit your needs and look.

Taking the time to time to bolster your homes security will be time well spent. Your home and possessions are the fruits of your labor. Be sure to keep them safe at all times.

Source: Martha Stewart Living


Pending Home Sales Improved in December, Marking the Fifth Gain in Six Months, Says NAR

January 28, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, January 28, 2011--The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator, increased 2.0% to 93.7 based on contracts signed in December from a downwardly revised 91.9 in November. The index is 4.2% below the 97.8 mark in December 2009. The data reflects contracts and not closings, which normally occur with a lag time of one or two months.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, credits good affordability conditions and economic improvement. "Modest gains in the labor market and the improving economy are creating a more favorable backdrop for buyers, allowing them to take advantage of excellent housing affordability conditions. Mortgage rates should rise only modestly in the months ahead, so we'll continue to see a favorable environment for buyers with good credit," he says.

"In the past two years, home buyers have been very successful, with super-low loan default rates, partly because of stable home prices during that time. That trend is likely to continue in 2011 as long as there is sufficient demand to absorb inventory," says Yun. "The latest pending sales gain suggests activity is very close to a sustainable, healthy volume of a mid-5 million total annual home sales. However, sales above 6 million, as occurred during the bubble years, is highly unlikely this year."

For more information, visit www.realtor.org/.


Tips for Securing a Mortgage Loan in 2011

January 27, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, January 27, 2011--Although it is doubtful that mortgage lenders will change their recently tightened standards in the coming year, there are still great mortgages to be had. With some financial preparation and by following the right steps, you can still secure a low interest rate and terms that work for you and your family. Here are some tips to get the best deal possible for your new purchase.

Nothing can replace a high credit score. Nowadays, the best loan terms are awarded to those with a 740 credit score or higher. Gone are the days when the best terms were given for a 720 rating. With this increase in standards comes an added pressure on borrowers to make sure that score is higher than ever. For those that can do so, reaching that mark will only benefit you when it comes time to snag a mortgage.

Dont take the first deal you can find. Always shop around for a mortgage. Compare discount points, loan types and even combinations of the two from various lenders. What makes more financial sense for you? Using a mortgage calculator on the Web can help you when trying to decide what is best.

Know your limits. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) sets a nice example to follow regarding how much debt you should actually take on for a house payment, topping off at 31% of your pre-tax income. Whether or not you actually get an FHA-insured loan or not is irrelevant. Its always extremely important to make sure your debt is manageable. To be safe, a 28-30% ratio can also be followed Be knowledgeable about what size of home you can actually afford and how big of a mortgage you can reasonably take on.

Seek out other options if you have a small down payment. Most lenders require borrowers to have at least a 10% down payment. Some may even require 10% in equity. Borrowers that fall under these requirements should look into other options that may accept a more modest down payment. Borrowers with good credit can look into FHA-insured loans, which typically require a down payment or equity of 3.5%. Other programs may be relevant to your situation as well. The Department of Veterans Affairs offers zero-down mortgages for qualified veterans while the Department of Agriculture runs similar programs.

Although standards may not be ideal, there is always a way. By utilizing these tips and being financially prepared for ownership, you can hone in on a mortgage that will be suitable and affordable for you and your family.

Source: Bankrate.com


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