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Blog :: 2014

6 Design Tips to Make Space in a Small Kitchen

With all of the different kitchen gadgets out there, it can be really easy to fill up even the largest of kitchens. A smaller kitchen requires that every bit of space be well organized so items don't end up stacked on the counters—especially when counter space is limited. With a little creativity and patience a small kitchen can accommodate all your stuff with room to spare. Here are some ideas to create more space in any kitchen.

Cabinets that Reach the Ceiling
There is a lot of wasted space above traditional kitchen cabinets. Having cabinets go all the way to the ceiling adds another level of storage. If changing the cabinets isn't an option, use the top of the cabinets to store rarely used items, like large bowls or small appliances. Just make sure to dust and clean up there so dirt doesn't pile up.

A Hanging Pot Rack
Going upward is often a great way to create more space. Pots and pans can be awkward when put in a drawer or on a shelf. Every time you need to use a pot, it's always the one on the bottom. Not only does a hanging pot rack eliminate this problem, it leaves shelf space open for something else.

Add Extra Shelves
You can buy shelves at most stores with kitchen departments. More shelves makes it easy to stack the small plates above the large plates. Or use them to stack small food items on top of each other. Extra shelves are great for using the height in your cabinets, which might otherwise be wasted space.

A Hutch
The cabinets in a small kitchen will fill up fast, so supplementing with a hutch or buffet can be a lifesaver. What goes into the hutch will depend on where you have space to put it. If it is in the kitchen, it can be great for food or dishes that are used regularly. But if it ends up in the dining room, storing your lesser used items such as canned goods or fancy dishes would be a better option.

A Lazy Susan
Corner cabinets can become a waste of space. A Lazy Susan makes a great use of space because everything is accessible. It may seem like more stuff can be piled into a normal shelf, but it gets way too frustrating to dig things out all the time. A Lazy Susan makes the corner shelf more usable because everything is easy to find.

Over the Sink Cutting Board
Having a cutting board that sits over your sink can give you a little more counter space. This comes in handy when you have run out of counter space and need to chop something up quickly. The edges of the cutting board are made so that it fits perfectly in the sink and is pretty solid. It's nice to have the option of putting out the cutting board to create a bit of space that wasn't there before.

If remodeling your kitchen isn't an option, using some of these design tips can make your small kitchen seem larger.

4 Ways to Save on Energy Costs

There are plenty of things that you can do to improve the aesthetics and functionality of your home, but it's just as important to make improvements that will save you money. We all want to find more ways to save money and starting with your home is the perfect choice.
1. Upgrade Appliances
Investing in new, energy-efficient appliances may cost you money now, but over time it will save you money. An old appliance can be a drain on your wallet. It uses more energy, and may need constant maintenance. If an appliance needs repaired, it's time to seriously consider replacing it with something new and energy-efficient.

2. Weatherproofing
Weatherproof your home and see savings on your monthly energy bill. Windows and doors that are well sealed do not let cold in or heat out. Find where drafts can come in and use weather-stripping or caulk to fill gaps. Covering drafty windows with shrink-wrap film can save on heating costs. For significant energy savings consider adding additional insulation to your attic.

3. Change Air Filters
For best performance, filters in your home need to be changed regularly. Dirty filters make your heating and cooling system work harder, which wastes energy and lowers indoor air quality. Mark on your calendars when it's time to change the filters.

4. Lower the Temperature
Most people lower the thermostat when they're not home to save on heating costs, but checking the temperature on their hot water heater is something they might not think about. It's necessary to have hot water for showers, cleaning, and doing laundry, but the temperature on your hot water tank may be higher than it needs to be. The recommended temperature is 120 degrees to prevent scalding and to save energy.

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    5 Real Estate Predictions for 2015

    Expect the home-purchase market to strengthen along with the economy in 2015, according to Freddie Mac's U.S. Economic and Housing Market Outlook for November.
     
    "The good news for 2015 is that the U.S. economy appears well-poised to sustain about a 3 percent growth rate in 2015 -- only the second year in the past decade with growth at that pace or better," says Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac's chief economist. "Governmental fiscal drag has turned into fiscal stimulus; lower energy costs support consumer spending and business investment; further easing of credit conditions for business and real estate lending support commerce and development; and consumers are more upbeat and businesses are more confident, all of which portend faster economic growth in 2015. And with that, the economy will produce more and better-paying jobs, providing the financial wherewithal to support household formations and housing activity."
    Freddie Mac economists have made the following projections in housing for the new year:
     
    1.       Mortgage rates: Interest rates will likely be on the rise next year. In recent weeks, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has dipped below 4 percent. But by next year, Freddie projects mortgage rates to average 4.6 percent and inch up to 5 percent by the end of the year.
     
    2.       Home prices: By the time 2014 wraps up, home appreciation will likely have slowed to 4.5 percent this year from 9.3 percent last year. Appreciation is expected to drop further to an average 3 percent in 2015. "Continued house-price appreciation and rising mortgage rates will dampen affordability for home buyers," according to Freddie economists. "Historically speaking, that's moving from 'very high' levels of affordability to 'high' levels of affordability."
     
    3.       Housing starts: Homebuilding is expected to ramp up in the new year, projected to rise by 20 percent from this year. That will likely help total home sales to climb by about 5 percent, reaching the best sales pace in eight years.
     
    4.       Single-family originations: Mortgage originations of single-family homes will likely slip by an additional 8 percent, which can be attributed to a steep drop in refinancing volume. Refinancings are expected to make up only 23 percent of originations in 2015; they had been making up more than half in recent years.
     
    5.       Multi-family mortgage originations: Mortgage originations for the multi-family sector have surged about 60 percent between 2011 and 2014. Increases are expected to continue in 2015, projected to rise about 14 percent.
     
    Source: Freddie Mac

     

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      3 Reasons to Keep Your Home Listed During the Holidays

      As the holidays approach, home sellers are often tempted to take their homes off the market until spring-or even wait until spring to list. After all, buyers are too busy now to search for houses, right? In a word, no. As a rule, you should list your home when you want to sell it, not when you think it will sell, because no one can predict with any certainty when the right buyer might show up at your door. In fact, canceling or postponing your listing may actually prove counterproductive. Here are three reasons why:

      1. Motivated Buyers
      Buyers who take time from their holiday preparations-and their holiday time off work-to house-hunt tend to be serious buyers who are ready to move. Although some buyers prefer to move in warmer weather, those who are relocating or who are purchasing upon expiration of their leases don't have a choice. Furthermore, buyers who have no children, and buyers already living in your school district, may not have a seasonal preference.

      2. Less Competition
      Winter inventories tend to decline, so the homes that are listed during the holiday months have less competition. And, as buyers hold off for lower prices and sellers hold off for higher ones, pent-up demand creates an urgency that can benefit holiday sellers.

      3. Your Home is Already Staged
      Despite temporary disarray when you're in the process of decorating for the holidays, your home looks more inviting than ever after the work is finished. The warm, festive atmosphere encourages prospective buyers to linger, as they imagine celebrating their own holidays there. If you're worried that showing requests might catch you off-guard, have a five-minute family clean-up each morning to prepare your home for the day. You also may alter your showing instructions to accommodate changes in your routine. Beyond that, leave the details to your agent as you enjoy the season and look forward to a successful sale.

      Five Surprising Things that Don't Impact Your Credit Score

      When becoming informed about what affects your credit score, it's just as important to know the things that don't have an impact on your credit score-either positive or negative-as it is to understand the factors that can help or hurt your credit. Here is a look at five things that surprisingly won't affect your credit rating.

      1. Certain Monthly Payments
      Paying your rent and utilities on time, won't help or hurt your credit. However, if you fall so far behind on payments that you are sent to a collections agency it will have a negative affect on your credit rating.

      2. Bank Overdraft Fees
      Accidentally charging too much on your debit card can be a pain when you consider the hefty fees that you incur, but it won't hurt your credit. Just like all your other bills, overdraft fees are only reported to the credit bureaus if they remain outstanding long enough to get sent to collections.

      3. Income and Employment Status
      As long as you are consistently able to repay your creditors, the bureaus that calculate your credit score don't care whether you make a lot of money-or if you're employed at all. Your income has no impact on your credit score, though prospective lenders will always verify your employment status on their own before considering you for a loan.

      4. Age, Race, Sex, or Religion
      Everyone knows that credit bureaus aren't allowed to discriminate based on factors like race, sex, or religion when factoring your scores. On the other hand, many consumers are surprised that age doesn't play a part because young people often have more difficulty obtaining credit cards and loans than older individuals. In fact, it's actually the length of your credit history that makes it easier for more experienced borrowers to secure credit; younger consumers usually don't have much credit history to bolster their scores.

      5. Checking Your Own Credit
      Many consumers have heard that too many inquiries into your credit can hurt your score. While it's true that too many inquiries into your credit from other people or companies can ding your credit, this does not apply if you are checking your own credit score. Most financial analysts will agree that you should check your credit rating regularly. By staying on top of your credit reports, you can catch any errors before they hurt your rating.

      Spread The Word: Mortgage Rates Below 4%

      DAILY REAL ESTATE NEWS | FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2014

      Fixed-rate mortgages fell back near yearly lows again this week, lowering borrowing costs for home buyers and refinancers. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.99 percent this week, Freddie Mac reports in its weekly mortgage market survey.

      "If you are planning to buy a home in the next year, it's better to do it sooner rather than later," Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac's chief economist, said in the video commentary embedded here.

      Freddie Mac reported the following national averages with mortgage rates for the week ending Nov. 20:

      • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.99 percent, with an average 0.5 point, dropping from last week's 4.01 percent average. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dipped to 3.97 percent in mid-October, its lowest average so far this year.
      • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.17 percent, with an average 0.5 point, decreasing from last week's 3.2 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.27 percent.
      • 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 3.01 percent, with an average 0.5 point, falling slightly from last week's 3.02 percent average. A year ago, 5-year ARMs averaged 2.95 percent.
      • 1-year ARMs averaged 2.44 percent, with an average 0.4 point, inching up slightly from last week's 2.43 percent average. Last year at this time, 1-year ARMs averaged 2.61 percent.

      Source: Freddie Mac

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