Appraisal Disappointing? Steps to Take

Appraisal disappointing? You have options, according to the Appraisal Institute.

“Homebuyers and sellers should first understand what an appraisal is and how it’s used,” says Jim Amorin, president and acting CEO of the Appraisal Institute. “Real estate appraisals for mortgage finance applications are prepared for the bank or financial institution so they can better understand the collateral risk in making the loan. This can be confusing, because homebuyers typically pay for the appraisal and receive a copy of it.”

In some cases, the appraisal may not match the contract price—but just because an appraisal comes in below (or above) the listing or contract price doesn’t mean it’s flawed, Amorin says. The agreed-upon contract price may be above market value, for example. In those situations, the buyer and seller often renegotiate the contract at more favorable or balanced terms.

Homebuyers should ask their lender for the qualifications of the appraiser, including whether they are designated by a professional association like the Appraisal Institute, says Amorin. A qualified and competent appraiser knows how to conduct a thorough market analysis and make appropriate adjustments.

Homebuyers also can ask whether the appraiser is directly engaged by the bank or whether the bank utilizes an appraisal management company, and what their procedures are for engaging qualified appraisers.

“The best way for consumers to combat potential problems with appraisals is to ensure the appraiser hired by their lender is highly qualified and competent,” Amorin says. “Consumers have every right to demand the use of a highly qualified appraiser, someone with field experience in their market and knowledge and experience to handle the assignment properly.”

Contrary to incorrect interpretations of appraiser independence requirements, appraisers welcome information that would assist the development of credible assignment results,” says Amorin. If lender policies permit, consumers can accompany appraisers when conducting the property inspection and may provide the appraiser with any information they consider important.

Amorin suggests consumers ask their lender for permission to do so, and confirm the appointment. Consumers should also take note of whether an adequate inspection is performed. Did the appraiser spend enough time at the property to observe important features or improvements or potential problems?

Homebuyers should take advantage of their right to obtain a copy of the appraisal report,” Amorin says. Even though the appraisal is ordered to help assess lender collateral risk, buyers are entitled to a copy of the appraisal report. Federal regulations require lenders to provide property buyers with free copies of appraisal reports no later than three days before the loan closes.

Although appraisal review is best performed by qualified appraisers, consumers should examine the appraisal for potential deficiencies, says Amorin. According to “Appraising the Appraisal: The Art of Appraisal Review,” common errors in appraisals include: misuse of adjustments to comparables; disregarding special financing and concessions; or miscalculation of gross living area (GLA).

Amorin suggests consumers ask themselves:

  • Do adjacent homes add or detract from the value of the subject property?
  • Is the subject property equal to or lower in price than surrounding homes?
  • Does the floor plan have any functional problems?
  • Does the house (particularly the kitchen and bathrooms) require major remodeling to make it comparable with similar homes in the same price range?
  • Is the number of bedrooms and baths in the home comparable to similar homes in the same price range?
  • Did the appraiser perform an adequate inspection?

“Most lenders have appraisal appeal procedures, known as ‘Reconsiderations of Value,'” says Amorin. “If you’re aware of recent, comparable sales information or items that may not have been available or considered by the appraiser, provide those to the lender. If problems were found with the first appraisal, you can and should obtain a second appraisal.”

Source: Appraisal Institute

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While the immediate danger is gone and hurricane season is winding down, individuals in the affected areas are still working through a recovering market. Most residents of hurricane-prone areas expect storms to hit, but the buyer and seller population may not be familiar with the ramifications of a hurricane that disrupts a real estate transaction.

Here’s what Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association President-Elect Lou Nimkoff and RE/MAX 200 Orlando-based REALTOR® Daniel Wilson have to say about navigating the real estate market during hurricane season:

Trust your gut.
Unfortunately, you may come across individuals that try to take advantage of vulnerable homeowners. Following a natural disaster, service “professionals” who are not qualified to perform a job may try to overcharge for a service claiming an increase in demand. If not careful, you can wind up with a botched repair that costs you thousands of dollars.

“My No. 1 piece of advice to buyers and sellers post-hurricanes is to be aware of everyone that you’re dealing with and make sure that they’re a trusted name in their industry. During times of distress, a lot of companies try and profit from those in need. For example, make sure the roofer that comes to your door knocking for business is an actual licensed and insured roofer. Better yet, look up the business and find their customer reviews online,” says Wilson.

“You need to have a home inspector take a look and make sure any work you had done was done properly,” says Nimkoff.

Have patience. 
The market was hit hard and it will take time for everything to settle down. Not all homes are back on the market after sustaining damage during the hurricanes. In a few more weeks, you could be seeing more activity; however, if you do see something you like, it will most likely sell quickly since inventory is low. If a home fits the bill, jump on it before another buyer comes along and claims it.

“I advise buyers to act on the same day the homes get listed if they’re interested, otherwise they will have a very difficult time in getting their offer accepted once there’s been a multiple offer situation. My theory is: the first agent in the door—with the best offer and continued communication with the other agent—wins!” says Wilson.

“Because it is a seller’s market and there is an unusually high number of sellers, buyers want to be able to try and attract them and negotiate with them quickly,” says Nimkoff.

Get back on the market.
If your home was damaged by the hurricanes and you are trying to sell, fix any issues as quickly as possible so you can get your home back on the market. If your home only sustained minor damage, fix any issues without withdrawing your listing. Time off the market can translate into offers that you could be missing out on. Buyers will start to come out of the woodwork after laying low in the weeks following the hurricanes.

“I have a current seller who needed to have a new roof put on because of the hurricane. We went under contract with a buyer, got insurance to approve the new roof and scheduled a professional to place the new roof on the home—all while still on track with the original closing date of just 30 days from contract to close,” says Wilson.

“You need to make sure that your insurance values are up-to-date. If you do have a loss, you can quickly have it repaired and you don’t have to get into a fight with the insurance company. If you suffered some sort of loss, you need to repair it quickly and properly,” says Nimkoff.

Be flexible and keep the end goal in mind.
Do remember that hurricane season can be stressful. Emotions are high for both buyers and sellers. Work together to achieve your goal while avoiding the drama.

“If you’re going to buy a house during hurricane season, talk to your landlord and say, ‘I need an extra month if I can’t move into my new house.’ Or if you’re selling your home, you have the right to delay the home you are selling so you can work out the issue because of a pending hurricane,” says Nimkoff

“It’s an awfully tight market. A thousand people a day are moving in here. Don’t get too focused [on hurricanes] that you forget about the long-term benefits. We have pretty low interest rates right now,” he adds.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

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(TNS)—You’re buying a home and you need a mortgage. How do you choose the right lender—one that will offer not only the best deal, but also good customer service?

You’ll find no shortage of banks, online lenders, mortgage brokers and other players eager to take your loan application. Here are five tips for selecting the best mortgage lender out of the bunch.

Compare Offers and Lenders
Start getting familiar with various lenders and the deals they’re offering by browsing through mortgage rates.

Lenders will “present price differently,” notes Robert Davis, an executive vice president at the American Bankers Association (ABA). “Some lower rates might include fees with it, so the annual percentage rate is different than what you might think.”

Also, understand that some lenders specialize. One might be a good choice if you’re financing a condo, while others might offer a better deal if you’re building your home from scratch. You’ll want to have a general idea of the type of property you’re interested in.

Check With Lenders and People You Know
You might find the right mortgage and the best lender without having to look very far. Go to the bank or credit union where you have a checking or savings account and ask about the types of mortgage deals that are available to current customers.

Compare any offer against what other lenders in your area and online and large national lenders will give you.

“Interest rates change as much as three or four times a day, so get quotes from three different (lenders) to increase your odds,” says Brian Koss, executive vice president of Mortgage Network.

Be sure to ask family members and friends for referrals to loan officers and mortgage brokers who gave them good, professional service and helped them find the most competitive loans.

Decide: DIY or Hire a Broker?
One important decision is whether to seek out a mortgage and lender completely on your own or use the services of a mortgage broker.

A broker can help with your comparison-shopping by gathering quotes from several lenders, but it’s important to understand that a broker isn’t obligated to find the deal that’s best for you.

If you decide to work with a mortgage broker, it’s wise to look at how the loan offers from the broker size up against those you find on your own.

Look at differences in rates, fees, mortgage insurance and down payments—and compare what your bottom-line costs will be.

Talk With Your Real Estate Agent
Be sure to ask your real estate agent for lender recommendations. Smart loan officers rely on that business and take good care of the clients sent their way by local real estate agents.

Keep in mind that agents might have relationships with certain lenders, so when your agent gives you a name, ask whether there is any affiliation.

While some real estate brokerages have their own favored in-house mortgage lending businesses, good agents will not limit their referrals to those particular lenders.

Be Ready for a Possible Hand-Off
Many lenders will end up selling your mortgage to the secondary market, which means you will likely have a different company servicing your loan than your original lender.

This transfer is often outside your control, but you can ask the lender whether it knows if your mortgage will end up being serviced by a different company. If you want a lender you can reach out to immediately if problems arise, finding one who will hold onto your mortgage might be the best option.

“If it’s important for you to have local contact with the lender, then you’ve got to go to a bank that keeps your mortgage,” says Davis.

©2017 Bankrate.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of RISMedia.

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Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

The mortgage process can be complicated if you jump in without any prior knowledge on home-buying and lending. The best tool you can arm yourself with is an understanding of how your mortgage interest rate is calculated.

Credit can make or break you.

Your credit score will determine how reliable you are in the lending world. The higher your score, the lower your interest rate will likely be. Check your credit on one of the three major credit reporting agency sites—TransUnion, Experian and Equifax—or your credit card company may have a free credit report service (although these aren’t as reliable). Improve your FICO score for a better chance at a lower interest rate.

Factor in size and location.

  • State or County: Even your place of residence can affect your rate.
  • Local Mortgage Lenders: Shop around. Interest rates can vary from company to company even if they’re located in the same town.
  • Loan Size: The size of your home can also impact your interest rate. The bigger the loan, the higher your interest rate will be if you’re not putting more money down.
  • Down Payment Size: Your mortgage interest rate may also depend on how much you’re putting down and if your loan includes closing costs and private mortgage insurance (PMI). Putting down less than 20 percent can increase your risk factor and may require PMI, but your interest rate may be lower depending on the loan.

Not all loans are created equal.

Loan Length: Your loan terms play a bigger role in interest rate calculations than you think. Have you decided whether you want to pay off your loan in 15 or 30 years? You may pay more per month with a shorter term, but you’ll be paying less interest over the life of your loan. Short-term loans may also have a smaller interest rate.

Fixed or Adjustable: You’ll also have to consider whether a fixed- or adjustable-rate loan is right for you. Your interest rate can change over time if you choose an adjustable-rate loan. It may start off low or fixed, but can increase over time depending on market conditions. Fixed-rate loans, however, will have a higher interest rate attached to them.

Loan Type: Interest rates can also vary according to your loan type. Choosing a loan can be overwhelming, but a local lender should be able to provide you with the best options. Some of the more popular loans are conventional, FHA and VA loans. While FHA loans have less down payment restrictions and a smaller interest rate, your monthly payment can be more expensive due to the required PMI added on. VA loans can have smaller interest rates and don’t require PMI like FHA does. Conventional loans are widely accepted in the real estate industry as dependable, but your interest rate may be higher.

Source: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

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(TNS)—Buying a house can be difficult enough—especially in today’s market.

Even after a seller accepts an offer, the sale is not a done deal until certain “contingencies” are met. Some are straightforward: Some buyers stipulate, for example, that a sale cannot proceed until they sell their current home. Other contingencies are more complicated. Either way, all are in place to protect buyers and sellers, allowing either to walk away from a deal if their conditions are not met.

Navigating these contract conditions can be confusing, and in today’s hot real estate market in which some buyers are waiving contingencies in order to win bidding wars, it can be difficult to determine which are important.

These days, real estate agents say they have seen buyers waive inspection contingencies to make their offers more attractive. In doing so, buyers are forgoing their rights to an independent inspection, meaning they cannot ask the seller for repairs or walk away from a property if it turns out to be unsatisfactory. In short, buyers are accepting a house as is—and potentially, all of its hidden problems.

To help buyers decide how important independent inspections are, we spoke to real estate agents and inspectors about what goes into a home inspection, and whether waiving that condition is a good idea.

What exactly is a home inspection?
In most typical real estate transactions, a home inspection is the next step that occurs after a bid is accepted. Buyers are responsible for hiring the inspector before the deal closes, and the process is in place to protect them.

The inspector’s job is to examine a home, determining whether there are problems with its exterior or interiors, from the foundation to the roof. The inspector provides a report to a buyer, who can then bring that information to a seller and use it back at the bargaining table.

How quickly do I have to schedule one?
“It depends on the contract and the state you’re in,” says Frank Lesh, executive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors. But typically, he adds, buyers have five to 10 days after a home goes under contract.

Lesh’s advice: Once a home is under contract, contact an inspector immediately.

“Inspectors are busy, especially in hot markets,” he says. “Some people tend to forget and wait until the last minute. You really only have a few days.”

How can I find a well-respected home inspector?
Regulations for home inspectors differ across the United States. In New Jersey, for instance, inspectors are licensed and regulated by the state’s Home Inspection Advisory Committee. To become certified, inspectors must, by law, complete 180 hours of study courses, including 40 hours of unpaid field work in the presence of a licensed inspector. Each inspector must pass a national exam, and complete continuing education every other year.

In Pennsylvania, by contrast, home inspectors are not regulated by the state, and instead are required to be a “member in good standing of a national home inspection association,” such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) or the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (interNACHI). Each association has its own requirements on certification and continuing education; for example, ASHI requires inspectors to pass the national exam and to complete 250 inspections to become certified. Continuing education is also required.

What does my home inspection cover?
A general home inspection is a noninvasive exam of a seller’s home.

“The standards of practice are pretty uniform,” says Pete Ciliberto, owner and chief inspector of Real Estate Inspections, an inspection group. “We are covering all the major components and systems of a house—all of the structural elements, the foundation, exposed framing,” and more.

What that means: A general inspector will inspect the general structure of the roof, and the gutters and downspouts around it. He or she will make sure the home’s “flashing”—the thin layer of waterproof material that prevents water from getting into where it does not belong—is correct. The heating and air conditioning systems are also inspected to ensure they are up to snuff. So are ceilings and floors, chimneys and vents. The ventilation of attics is inspected, and a generalized overview of electrical systems is completed.

“There are probably over 200 things that we inspect,” Lesh says.

What does it not include?
Many things are not included, inspectors say. An inspection is not technically exhaustive, they pointed out, nor does it determine a property’s suitability. Inspectors are not required to determine whether a building is up to code, and they are not required to move furniture, enter crawlspaces, or offer any services besides the inspection.

Most important, the experts said, inspectors are not required to determine the presence of rodents or pests. They are not required to assess air quality or test for mold, mildew or fungus. Airborne and environmental hazards are also excluded, meaning radon, lead paint and asbestos tests are not conducted in a general inspection.

However, buyers can bring in specialists if they have particular concerns—or hire a general inspector who may be trained in a specialized area.

“There are guys who do mold testing, air sampling, and other ancillary services,” Lesh says. “If you want one person to take care of the whole thing, you can (find someone) to do that.”

Why should I get one—and should I waive that contingency?
When making a financial decision as significant as purchasing a home, you want to confirm that you are making a wise investment. While inspections are not holistic, they offer a snapshot of a home’s condition, and can give you fair warning of what repairs may be needed now or in the near future. Plus, agents point out, after an inspection report is issued, a buyer can use the report to ask a seller for repairs—or can walk away entirely.

“They can ask for anything they want or can terminate for any reason—they do not have to say why,” says Mike McCann, a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS®, which has offices in the Mid-Atlantic region. “The fall-through rate is only about 10 to 15 percent of the time, but I will tell you now, over 90 percent of the time, concessions are made after the inspections.”

McCann says he advises clients to never waive the inspection.

“If they don’t own the home, there are many things about it that they don’t know yet. You can’t check the roof. You can’t see every joist. Having a professional go through that is very important.”

©2017 The Philadelphia Inquirer

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Would you ever live in a haunted home? A new survey from realtor.com® shows most folks won’t shy away from a spooky space—so long as the price is right.

In September, realtor.com surveyed more than 1,000 online respondents. The verdict? Thirty-three percent were open to living in a haunted house, 25 percent might be, and 42 percent are not open to the idea.

So what factors impacted these results? Let’s explore:

  • Forty percent of respondents indicated that they need a price reduction in order to choose a haunted home over a non-haunted home;
  • 35 percent require a better neighborhood;
  • 32 percent need larger square footage; and
  • 29 percent would do so if more bedrooms are involved.

Who minds a few spooky spirits if there’s a third bedroom, amiright? From the survey, 47 percent of participants indicate they would live in a home where someone died, 27 percent said they might, and 26 percent said they would not.

The survey also showed certain paranormal activities are preferred over others. Forty-eight percent of those surveyed didn’t mind a few cold or hot spots in their home, whereas 45 percent could get down with unexplainable noises, and 39 percent are willing to tolerate strange, freaky feelings in certain rooms. Thirty-five percent of folks could deal with shifting shadows, but only 20 percent were alright with levitating objects or the sensation of being touched.

Of those surveyed, 28 percent believed they already have lived in a haunted house, with 14 percent unsure and 58 percent quite sure they’ve never been haunted.

What do you think? Would you be willing to room with a ghoul for more square footage, a lower price tag or a finished basement?

View more from the survey.

For more information, please visit www.realtor.com.

Zoe Eisenberg is RISMedia’s senior content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at zoe@rismedia.com.

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Any household where kids live or even visit today probably has a couple (or dozens) of fidget spinners lying around. On Aug. 10, Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle announced the agency was investigating some reported incidents that prompted a warning to parents and caregivers to keep fidget spinners and similarly branded toys from small children because the plastic and metal spinners can break and release small pieces that can be a choking hazard. Buerkle said there have also been reports of fires involving battery-operated fidget spinners.

She said it is key to use the charging cable that either comes with the fidget spinner or has correct connections for the device. Charging cables are not interchangeable, Buerkle warns.

Also, if a fidget spinner is marketed and is primarily intended for children “12 years of age and younger,” its manufacturer and/or retailer must certify it meets standards, including limits for phthalates, lead content, and lead in paint, including the U.S Toy Standard ASTM F963-16, and be labeled as such.

Remember:

  • Keep fidget spinners away from children under 3 years of age.
  • Plastic and metal spinners have small pieces (including batteries) that can be a choking hazard. Choking incidents involving children up to age 14 have been reported.
  • Warn children of all ages not to put fidget spinners or small pieces in their mouths or play with the fidget spinner near their faces.

If you have battery-operated fidget spinners:

  • Have working smoke alarms in your house to protect you if there is a fire;
  • Be present when products with batteries are charging;
  • Never charge a product with batteries overnight while you are sleeping;
  • Always use the cable that came with the fidget spinner; or
  • If the fidget spinner did not come with a cable, use one with the correct connections for charging; and
  • Unplug your fidget spinner immediately once it is fully charged.

Buerkle urges consumers to visit the CPSC Fidget Spinner Safety Education Center for additional safety tips, and urges consumers to report fidget spinner safety incidents to CPSC at www.SaferProducts.gov.

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Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Are you getting ready to find your retirement paradise? There are a lot of things to consider before making the big move. Lucky for you, U.S. News & World Report just unveiled their 2018 Best Places to Retire list to help you make your decision.

These rankings reflect a number of factors that can affect your retirement, such as happiness, housing affordability, desirability, retiree taxes, the job market and healthcare quality. In order to narrow down the list, U.S. News & World Report surveyed pre-retirees (ages 45-59) and retirement-aged (ages 60-plus) individuals.

If an overall happy life is the most important to you, head on over to Sarasota, Fla. But if you need strong housing affordability, then maybe San Antonio, Texas is for you. Weigh out your pros and cons before making a decision.

Here are the top 10 retirement spots. Is your relaxing oasis on this list?

  1. Sarasota, Fla.
  2. Lancaster, Pa.
  3. San Antonio, Texas
  4. Grand Rapids, Mo.
  5. El Paso, Texas
  6. McAllen, Texas
  7. Daytona Beach, Fla.
  8. Pittsburgh, Pa.
  9. Austin, Texas
  10. Washington, D.C.

View the entire list on U.S. News & World Report.

View the methodology.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

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Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Home improvement doesn’t have to break the bank. You can freshen up the spaces in your home or investment property with a number of small projects that cost less than $500, and make you feel like you spent a lot more! Here are some basic ideas.

Paint Power
Painting is one of the cheapest and easiest home improvements to make. A fresh coat of paint will make any room look as good as new, which is sure to add value. Choose colors that are popular to give a more modern, up-to-date look, or stick to the neutral classic colors. At around $25 a gallon, paint is an inexpensive way to improve your home’s desirability and is something that just about any homeowner can tackle on their own. While you’re at it, look up—do you have that outdated popcorn ceiling? Scrape that texture away to get rid of the dated looking ceilings.

Borrow Ideas
Instead of hiring a designer who will inevitably give you a lot of expensive ideas, such as tearing down walls or pulling up perfectly good flooring, just copy what others have done. You can find all sorts of ideas in books and magazines and on interior decorating TV shows, Pinterest and other websites. To keep to a tight budget, pick projects that can be completed yourself.

Get an Energy Audit
Take advantage of your utility company’s free energy audits to determine which improvements could save you hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars in utility costs each year. Most local utility companies will come and inspect your house for free, and the improvements are generally going to have some sort of tax rebate. Having an energy-efficient home is a salable improvement, or, if you plan on staying in the home for the long haul, you can put the money saved toward a different home improvement.

Plant a Tree
Landscaping will improve the curb appeal of your home greatly. Trees provide shade to keep the harmful rays of the sun from bleaching out your paint or heating up the inside of the house. Mature landscaping is a huge plus when trying to sell a home and is frequently sought after. When choosing which species or varieties to plant, it is important to take into consideration the water and maintenance requirements of the plants. Purchasing drought-tolerant plants that are slow or moderate growers will save you hours of yard work and money in the long run. Keeping the yard well maintained will help keep the property looking nice and tidy without investing a huge amount of money.

Keep It Clean
Keeping a home clean and clutter-free will leave a good impression. Get rid of the things you don’t need and “travel light.” You’ll be happy if you ever decide to sell the home that you don’t have a bunch of extraneous stuff to haul around with you or decide what to do with when you are in the middle of moving. If you are selling, it’s often difficult to make the house sparkle from top to bottom, so hire a cleaning service to really give the home a thorough cleaning. It’s worth the money.

Fake the Footage
Houses are often analyzed by price per square foot to help determine if it’s a good deal or not, but the feel and layout of the home can make the house appear bigger than it really is. Keeping the rooms light and airy by choosing light paint, furniture and window coverings can create a feeling of extra space. Adding a large mirror can double the room’s size just by creating that mirror image. An uncluttered home will make the space look bigger and more open. Have a big garage sale to get rid of the unnecessary clutter and put that money towards other home improvements.

New Fixtures
Nothing dates a home like old fixtures. Replacing old lights, faucets, door handles, etc. with updated fixtures really can change the look and feel of a home. The cost of fixtures do add up quickly, so shop around and start with rooms that receive the most traffic, such as bathrooms, the family room and kitchen. Updating these core rooms in the home can give you the biggest impact for the money.

These small improvements can make your home more pleasant for everyday living and give you a feeling of confidence when sharing your space with guests. In addition, if you are planning to sell your home, putting the time and money into small improvements can increase the value and pay off big in the end—quite a bit more than $500!

Kaycee Wegener manages marketing and media relations for Rentec Direct and shares industry news, products and trends within the community.

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Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Homeowners are often looking for home improvement options that strike the right balance between affordability, functionality, aesthetics and eco-friendliness. Bamboo has been marketed as something of a panacea—a kind of wonder wood that checks all the boxes. Designers, contractors and consumers have all taken note, as bamboo has made its way into homes as flooring, walls, window treatments, furniture and more. Here are the properties that are making this popular material a go-to green choice for interior design materials.

Affordability
Bamboo is a readily available wood…except for the fact that bamboo isn’t a wood at all, but a grass! Therein lies the secret to bamboo’s ascendant success as a housing material: It grows like a weed because it essentially is one. At a maximum of three feet per day, it is, in fact, the fastest growing plant on Earth. This abundance means it’s an affordable and easily accessible choice in an increasing number of household design elements.

Versatility
Just the one word “bamboo” doesn’t do justice to the range of looks the material offers. It can vary greatly in shades and textures, making it a versatile option for decorators and designers. From the darkest darks to the palest natural shades, you can get just the right color to complement and accentuate the earth tones in your interior decor. (For example, a homeowner with dark hardwood floors can choose dark bamboo shades to tie the room together.) Just keep in mind that the color may change over time as the material ages, and tones may differ depending on where and when it was harvested (just as is the case with hardwood).

Indeed, bamboo window treatments are particularly popular, and they’re available in a variety of options ranging from Roman shades to woven blinds. Whatever style you go for, bamboo blinds can pull together a room’s earth tones into one elegantly cohesive package, while allowing natural sunlight to filter in. While bamboo on its own is not a black-out solution, you can add blackout liners to prevent any undesired light filtration.

Durability
Whether natural or manmade, few materials can match bamboo’s physical properties pound for pound. Because bamboo grows in wet, tropical climates, it is well-suited to resisting rain and wind. (East Asian cultures have made use of bamboo for centuries to build suspension bridges, huts, rafts and much more.) In fact, this unassuming reed beats out hardwood, brick and concrete alike in terms of compressive strength, while rivaling steel in tensile strength.

The result is a lightweight, flexible material that performs admirably in heavily-trafficked and humid areas of the home, making it a great option for floors and furniture in living areas, as well as window treatments in areas like the bathroom.

Interestingly, bamboo’s legendary durability persists even when it is broken down into its fibers. Rayon fabric, while luxuriously soft, is also incredibly strong. Add to that its natural anti-microbial properties, and you have a long-lasting material that is useful in a wide variety of textile applications.

Sustainability
As a growing number of homeowners look for eco-friendly materials in their decor, perhaps no single factor has contributed to bamboo’s modern vogue in interior design more than its sustainability. As it is a grass rather than a tree, it can grow to a harvestable size (often over 100 feet) in a matter of months. This is in stark contrast to the years of water, fertilizer and pesticide required by other timber woods. Additionally, bamboo can grow on steep slopes and depleted or abandoned agricultural lands that would otherwise go to waste.

The environmental benefits don’t stop there. Bamboo’s root systems are an effective reinforcement against soil erosion. Due to its fast-growing nature, bamboo farms that make responsible use of available land are an incredibly potent form of carbon sequestration. Finally, bamboo groves can produce up to 35 percent more oxygen than comparably sized forests.

Processing bamboo has made leaps and bounds in terms of eco-friendliness. While bamboo plywood has traditionally required formaldehyde in the production process, more and more researchers are finding breakthroughs that make durable and biodegradable glues an economic reality. It’s worth noting that most of the world’s bamboo timber is grown in China and India, and therefore requires international shipping, and not all companies conform to the greenest methods of production.

When you consider bamboo’s low carbon footprint along with its durability and lasting appeal, it’s no wonder that it’s made its way to homes in the form of furniture, window treatments, flooring and more. When you elect to adorn your home with this wonder wood (er, grass) you can rest easier knowing that a more beautiful home can be kind to Mother Earth and your bank account alike.

Katie Laird is the director of Social Marketing for Blinds.com.

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The post 4 Reasons Why Bamboo Is Taking Home Decor by Storm appeared first on RISMedia.

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