Home Renovations: When to Hire a Pro and When to DIY

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You are a creative person and consider yourself handy by nature. But even still, it can be difficult to decide whether to attempt a DIY home renovation project, or whether it’s best to consult a professional. Take a look at these common home renovations broken down by DIY projects and professional projects.

Home Renovations: When to Hire a Pro and When to DIY

Home Renovation Where You Should Consult a Pro

Major Electrical Work

Electrical work can be tricky, and if done incorrectly can be very dangerous and costly. If your electrical needs major work, consider hiring a professional electrician so you are confident that it’s done correctly.

Foundation Repairs

Say you want to extend your home own 10 feet and need to update the foundation. Since the foundation is a critical component of the structure of your home, it shouldn’t be DIYed because it could be very dangerous and costly if done incorrectly. Luckily pouring foundation isn’t necessarily a glamorous task, so you likely won’t regret hiring a professional for this type of project.

Plumbing

Adding a new bathroom? Consider hiring a professional to hook up your plumbing. There’s a large amount of room for error, which could result in dangerous and significant damage to your home. Not to mention a stinky situation…

Roof Repairs

While some opt to install roofing themselves, it’s extremely dangerous if you don’t have the right gear. Professional roofers have equipment needed to repair your roof and prevent future damage to your home.

DIY Home Renovations

Painting

Painting the interior of your home is fairly straightforward and can be done following a couple video tutorial found online. A new paint job can be a quick undertaking that can also allow you to paint exactly how you’d like, especially for walls with designs.

Landscaping

Building patio and decks can be done without a professional. Just do your research on the best materials for your vision and the proper steps of installation. If you have questions, consult the folks at your local hardware shop and garden center. They are typically experts that are more than willing to offer advice and recommendations.

Tiling

If you are choosing to install new tiles in your home, there’s no need to hire a professional. Especially for smaller projects like bathroom or mudroom tiles, installing new tiles is a task that brings on little risk of doing major damage.

Minor electrical work

You likely don’t need an electrician if you’re just switching out a light fixture in your kitchen. Simply look up how to connect the wiring and you should be set!

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Understanding Home Owner’s Insurance

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Before you buy a home, it’s important to know about home owner’s insurance and what it covers. While you’re basking in the joys of buying a new home, the last thing you want to think about is the chance of any destruction or vandalism against your property. Here are 5 things to understand about home owner’s insurance.

Understanding Home Owner’s Insurance

What is home owner’s insurance?

Unlike driving a car, you can legally own a home without home owner’s insurance. However, if you finance your home with a mortgage, your lender will most likely require an insurance policy in case of unforeseen circumstances. Home owner’s insurance policies cover loss or damage of personal property due to theft or natural disasters. Policies may cover costs if someone sues the home owner or injures themselves on the property.

What happens if you don’t have an insurance plan?

If you don’t have an insurance policy, you are not covered if something happens to your home. As a result, any repairs or replacements costs will have to be paid out of pocket. Simply: you are liable for any damage to your property or belongings.

Benefits of home owner’s insurance

The largest benefit of having an insurance plan is that you’re protecting yourself, your family, and your belongings. You cannot control if there is a house fire or other natural disaster. In these tragic times, you want the peace of mind that your policy will cover any damage costs. Most policies also cover temporary living expenses if your home is uninhabitable after a covered claim. Additionally, with most policies you’re able to add coverage for valuable personal property such as jewelry, musical instruments, and electronics. If you do end up losing a personal item to a natural disaster, your policy will replace your lost belonging with brand-new equivalents of the same quality.

How do I pay for homeowner’s insurance?

Most home owner’s tack on their insurance payment to their mortgage check. This allows you to make one simple payment each month and not have to worry about writing multiple checks every month. It’s important to contact at least three companies to compare coverage to make sure you’re getting the best coverage for you and your family at the lowest cost. Additionally, if you’re required to have flood coverage, it’s important to note which home owner’s insurance companies cover this insurance. Since you’ll mainly be working with insurance companies during times of disaster, it’s important to choose a company with great customer service.

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5 Tips to Buying a Home in a Hot Housing Market

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Buying a home, especially your first, can be overwhelming, especially when in a hot housing market. As the Pacific Northwest market heats up, here are 5 tips to buying a home in a hot housing market.

5 Tips to Buying a Home in a Hot Housing Market

Get pre-qualified

Getting pre-qualified is one of the top tips to buying a home in a hot housing market. When you get pre-qualified, your lender takes a look at your financial situation using your income, assets, and debts. Your lender will then perform a credit evaluation, giving a ballpark estimate of how much money you may be able to borrow. Getting pre-qualified early helps set you apart from the rest for the competition as it makes your home search intentional. You aren’t going to be wasting a ton of time looking for homes that are outside of your loan limit. Additionally, when a home seller sees you are already pre-qualified, it can put you above your competition since it means you are a serious buyer and can complete the closing process faster.

Note your favorite neighborhoods

By having an idea of where you want to live before attending open house after open house, it can help narrow your search. Figure out things like commute times to and from the neighborhood, school districts, and proximity to your frequently visited places. It’s important to note that in a hot market, you may not get to be as picky as you’d like, so make note of what you’re willing to compromise for the location.

Make competitive offers

As much as you might think low ball offers will help you in the long run, in a hot housing market there is really not much time for low ball offers. You must put your best offer up first, and eliminate as many contingencies that may make a seller toss your offer to the side. There are likely many people wanting the same home, so if you low ball it, you might be out of the running from the get-go.

Work with an agent

It’s best to have a strong team when house hunting in a hot housing market. There are so many perks to working with an agent, but one of the main advantages is that they may find out about listings before they even hit the market. Having a professional in your corner when homes come and go quickly is a must.

Be available

Being available is one of the top tips to buying a home in a hot housing market. You have to be able to attend an open house at a moment’s notice. If you wait too long, the home could have a few offers on the table by the time you get around to walking through.

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4 Signs It’s Time to Move

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Your home is where you spend most of your time, so you deserve to enjoy every minute of it. If home isn’t where the heart is anymore, and you’re finding yourself daydreaming about moving into a new home, it may be time to get packing. Here are 4 common signs it’s time to move.

4 Signs It’s Time to Move

Your house is too small

Let’s face it, we all collect random things as time goes on, so running out of storage in a home is a common place people find themselves in. After deep cleaning your home, organizing your closets, and having massive garage sales, you may find that your home is still too small. If you are having this issue, it’s a good sign it’s time to move into a home with more space. Additionally, if your family keeps growing and you simply need more bedrooms, that’s another sign your home is too small and its time to search for a larger home.

Your house is too big

On the flip side, when your kids move out of the house, you may find yourself really only needing 2 bedrooms, not 5. The more bedrooms, the more space to collect dust and clutter, and the higher the energy bills to keep those rooms warm/cool. Additionally, with more space, you may be tempted to keep buying items to fill all the space, when really you aren’t using the extra rooms. If you feel like your home is simply too large, it’s a good sign it’s time to move.

Too much maintenance

The level of maintenance for a home is one of the most common signs it’s time to move. The size of the house may be fine, but the maintenance it requires may just be too much for this stage of your life. You may love the size of the backyard and having a swimming pool, but the cost and effort it takes to maintain the luxurious backyard, may not be worth it. This could be a good sign it’s time to move to a location with a community pool, with multiple parks that you don’t have to maintain, but still get to enjoy.

You want to upgrade but don’t want to remodel

You want another bedroom and bathroom, but your house is already at the top value in the area, so you likely wouldn’t be able to recoup the cost when you plan to sell. Or, you just don’t want to deal with the stress or cost of renovating. In these cases, it makes more sense just to move.

You may also like: Reasons to Buy a Newly Built Home in Western Washington

The Advantages of Buying a Home Vs. Renting

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For many years, renting a home was a less expensive alternative to buying a home. While renting is more flexible, buying has the bigger potential long term payoffs. Here are 4 advantages of buying a home vs. renting.

The Advantages of Buying a Home Vs. Renting

Home Ownership is a Built in Savings Account

While renting a home may seem like less money per month, think about where the money is going. Every month you write a check to your landlord, and you don’t see that money again. With a mortgage payment, you pay down the mortgage and increase your equity. In this fashion, home ownership helps you build wealth. Additionally, with rent prices increasing and home prices staying relatively steady, make sure to evaluate what it would cost to rent vs. buy, because you may be surprised!

Paying a Fixed Mortgage Stabilizes Budget

As anyone who has rented a home knows, especially in urban areas, rent hikes are the norm and are often out of your control. If you’re in an area without rental control, the landlord can raise the rent to whatever he or she likes. With a mortgage payment, you are agreeing to pay the same mortgage amount every single month for the life of the loan – 15 or 30 years. This helps you budget accurately and know exactly what to expect every month.

Personalization

Perhaps one of the most exciting advantages of buying a home vs. renting is the freedom to personalize your home. This means you can paint, add on rooms, and knock down walls if you so desire. With a rental, you have very tight restrictions, so you are likely unable to personalize the home however you want.

Tax Advantages

Buying a home comes with great tax advantages. Homeowners can deduct mortgage interest on their federal income taxes. This is a hefty deduction for most because interest payments are often the largest section of a mortgage payment in the first years of owning a home. There are also some closing fees and property taxes that you are also able to deduct.

Growing Your Roots

It’s hard to feel established in a neighborhood if you are moving every year. Buying a home really allows you and your family to really settle in and create a community. When you know you’re going to be in the house for a while, it’s easier and more natural to build long lasting relationships with your neighbors.

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VA Loan Benefits Video

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In this video, I speak on the Top 7 VA loan benefits. From credit score flexibility, to no private mortgage insurance, there are a ton of VA Loan benefits.

1. $0 down payment

2. Possible $0 closing costs + prepaids

3. No private mortgage insurance

4. Higher debt to income ratio

5. More relaxed credit score

6. Pay off revolving debts

7. Use it again

You may also like: Reasons to Buy a Newly Built Home in Western Washington

Reasons to Buy a Newly Built Home in Western Washington

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Buying a newly built home in Western Washington offers more benefits than ever before. From personalization, to community amenities, to overall safety, here are 6 reasons to buy a newly built home in Western Washington.

Reasons to Buy a Newly Built Home in Western Washington

Personalization

One of the top reasons to buy a newly built home in Western Washington is the personalization aspect. Why settle for someone else’s design preferences when you can pick out your own countertops, cabinets, hardware, flooring and lighting fixtures? A lot of times you’re able to pick out your appliances and backsplash as well. Your new home will reflect your style, not the style of the person who lived there before you.

Choose your own floor plan

This is a huge perk of buying a newly built home. If you like to entertain, choosing a home with an open floor layout is likely your preference. If you don’t like climbing stairs, a one story home is probably the one you want. Perhaps you want to nix the formal dining area all together – choosing a plan with a flexible space on the main can accomplish this request.

All new, under warranty

When you move into a brand new home, you’re beginning all of your warranties when you move in. This means you truly have 10 years for the roof, not a remaining 2 years you might have on a resale home. This also means you can enjoy years and years of living in your home without having to replace the water heater, roof, AC unit, etc.

Community amenities

Many new homes are built inside of a master planned community. These communities often times have pools, schools, shopping centers, and community centers. Having access to these amenities means you can spend more time close to home and less time driving. Additionally, in Western Washington, a lot of master planned communities have built in hiking trails. This is a huge benefit for those who like to enjoy the beautiful PNW scenery.

Safety

New homes today are built with state of the art circuit breakers and energy efficient furnaces. Carpets, cabinets, and hardwoods use less volatile organic compounds so that your family can breathe easier. Additionally, a lot of newly built homes are built in communities that provide a patrol officer. By purchasing a newly built home in Western Washington, you are equipped with safety features inside your home and out.

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Reasons to Hire a Real Estate Agent

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Buying a home, especially for the first time, can be a stressful and confusing process. From gathering documentation for your mortgage lender, to house hunting, to negotiating the price of your home, it all may seem foreign to you. Some do fine on their own, but many people could have simplified their home buying process with a little help. Here are 5 reasons to hire a real estate agent when looking to buy or sell your home.

Reasons to Hire a Real Estate Agent

Education and Experience

When vetting different real estate agents, it’s best to find someone who has ample experience in the neighborhood you’re looking to buy/sell your home. Having an agent who knows the market and neighborhood well can help steer you away from certain neighborhoods, and introduce other neighborhoods that you may not have heard of. A good real estate agent will listen to your wants and needs for your new home, research multiple houses, and set up open houses for you.

Price Guidance

One of the biggest reasons to hire a real estate agent when looking to buy or sell your home is for price guidance. If the home seller or buyer is asking for a price that is reasonable, your real estate agent will tell you that. If the home buyer of seller is low-balling an offer, your real estate agent will also help you with that.

Professional Networking

If you are in a specific situation that your real estate agent has not had experience working with, they can reach out to their network. Of course they won’t use your specific name, but they can reach out to see how another agent may have handled a similar situation. Additionally, agents can give you a list of references when it comes to vendors such as home inspectors and appraisers. Choosing a highly recommended vendor will help your home buying or selling process go smoothly.

Paperwork

Today’s purchase agreements are often over 10 pages long. It’s important that you have an agent by your side that can help answer questions you may have when filling out paperwork. One tiny mistake or omission could land you in court or cost you thousands. It could even lead to a termination of your mortgage.

Develop Relationship for Future Business

One of the long-term reasons to hire a real estate agent is that they will become your go-to contact. Chances are you are going to buy and sell another house in your lifetime. By building strong relationships with your real estate agent, you have a trusted source to turn to the next time you’re in home buying or selling market. Additionally, many real estate agents will follow up with you year after year to make sure you’re all good in your current home.

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5 Ways to Reduce Costs in Your Home This Winter

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Winter is notorious for being associated with high energy bills. From turning up your thermostat, to running the gas fireplace for hours, you’ve probably experienced a spike in your bills during the winter months. Here are 5 ways to reduce costs in your home this winter.

5 Ways to Reduce Costs in Your Home This Winter

Strategically set your thermostat

While it feels good to walk into a home that’s 76 degrees, there’s no need to run the thermostat while you’re away at work. Most thermostat have the ability to set your thermostat on a schedule which will help keep your energy bill low this winter. Additionally, consider lowering your thermostat to 72 degrees. You most likely won’t feel a big difference in the inside temperature of your home, but will see a difference on your energy bill.

Open or cover your windows

Opening your windows during the day lets natural light warm up your home. It also allows you to keep the lights off since the sun provides natural light. Additionally, making sure to cover up your windows at night can help prevent drafts from coming through to chill your home at night. Just simply opening and covering your windows can help reduce costs in your home this winter.

Don’t heat rooms you don’t use

You likely don’t use your guest room every day, so go in that room and shut off the vent. This keeps heat out of that room, and off of your energy bill. There’s no sense in heating a room that’s not being used. Additionally, it’s a good idea to keep unused rooms’ doors shut so you can concentrate your heat in the main living areas of the home.

Blankets

Cuddling up with a nice warm blanket can help keep your body temperature high without cranking up the heat. Make sure to have enough blankets in your living areas as well as your bedrooms. It’s important to also include blankets in guest rooms in case you have visitors during the winter months.

LED lights

LED lights cost more upfront but will save you over time. LED lights are also more durable than fluorescent lighting, which makes them a safer option indoors. Additionally, LED lights have a much longer life span than fluorescent lights, which not only saves you energy on your bill, but energy in life since you don’t have to replace the bulbs as frequently.

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How Much House You Can Afford

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Buying a house is one of the largest purchases you’ll ever make, so it’s important to have a plan. If you’re wondering, how much house you can afford, here are a few tips to help you calculate your answer.

How Much House You Can Afford

Know Your Market

Before falling in love with a home, it’s important to be familiar with the real estate market where you are about to buy a home. Do some thorough research to determine the average cost of a home in the neighborhood you want to buy and nearby neighborhoods to get a good grasp on what prices to expect. This way, you can help avoid finding your “dream home” only to see that it’s in one of the higher priced neighborhoods that might not be in your budget.

Check Your Financial Situation

When figuring out how much house you can afford, start by looking at how much money you’ve saved. This can help you determine the max amount you can and want to put into your down payment. Second, be sure to collect the last couple bank statements and tax returns to send to your lender once you’re ready to get the ball rolling. Finally, think about your work history and if you have consistent income. Lenders like to see a steady work history (the same company for two years or more) to show that you’re able to pay a monthly mortgage.

Know Resources

When creating a budget, it’s important to include utilities, taxes, and insurance of your new home in addition to the base mortgage. Research the water, electricity, garbage, and sewer companies for the homes you’re really interested in to create an accurate representation of how much you’ll be paying per month. If you’re interested in moving to a neighborhood with an HOA, make sure to include this cost as well. Thoroughly doing your research can set you up for success and give you a clear answer of how much house you can afford.

Save For Décor and Updates

Unfortunately, payments toward your home don’t stop at the mortgage and utilities. Be sure to budget for home décor as well as any home updates you’ll want to complete when moving into your home. These costs are good to be aware of before closing on your home so you can be sure to save up for all you want to do once you become a homeowner.

You may also like: Simple Ways to Save for a Down Payment

4 Surprising Things That Affect Credit Score

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When deciding to buy a home, it’s important to understand all the factors that go into being approved for a home loan. While you’ve probably been told to keep you credit score high, you may be wondering if there are any sneaky ways to ding your score. Here are 4 surprising things that affect credit score.

4 Surprising Things That Affect Credit Score

Parking tickets

A parking ticket is one of the most surprising things that affect credit score. Leaving a parking ticket unpaid long enough will prompt your city to send it to collections. Any time a bill goes to collections that involves outstanding debt, it can damage your credit score. Collection accounts can remain on your report for seven years, though your score should improve the further and further you get away from your delinquency date.

Closing a credit card

You may think that closing a credit card will help your credit since it’s tidying up your credit lines, however this is not the case. If your other cards are bumping against their limit, you could wind up taking a credit score hit because you’re lowering your overall available credit. So if you want to close a card, just make sure to do it after you close on your home loan so you don’t risk your credit score falling.

Requesting a credit line limit increase

While you may think you qualify for a credit line increase, your bank will need to run your credit to confirm. This will generate a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can ding your credit score. Same goes for if you want to lower your annual percentage rate. Your bank will likely pull your credit to see if your standing justifies the change. A good rule of thumb is to always ask your bank if an action requires a credit pull, that way you aren’t out of luck if you want to apply for a home loan.

Opening a new credit line

The first step a bank takes when you apply for a new credit line is to make a hard credit inquiry. If you only have one or two credit inquiries in the last 12 months, the impact will be minimal. However, if you are on the brink with 4 or 5 inquiries in the past year, the impact can severely drop your credit score. This is why lenders advise that when you apply for a home loan, wait to buy a new car and finance your kitchen appliances until after you’ve secured your home loan.

You may also like: How to Save For a Home in 12 Months

How to Save For a Home in 12 Months

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One of the largest hurdles for prospective homebuyers is coming up with the down payment and closing costs. The idea that you have to front thousands of dollars can seem daunting and discouraging to some. But as long as you and your family are focused and disciplined, you can save for a home in 12 months.

How to Save For a Home in 12 Months

Track your spending

The best way to improve any habit is to track your habit and hold yourself accountable to daily, monthly, and yearly goals. There are many online apps that track your spending and keep a running total of the amounts that you spend on specific items. This allows you to understand where you are spending most of your money. If you are spending 60% of your income on food, it probably means you are dining out frequently which can really add up. Coffee alone can add up to hundreds of dollars per month. If possible, consider making coffee at home as it saves a ton of money in the long run.

Make a budget

Once you’ve understood where you’re spending your money, make a budget and stick with it. If you find that you’re subscribed to similar services, pick one and cancel your subscription to the other. For example, if you are paying over $20/month for two music streaming services, you likely won’t even notice if one is gone. Additionally, making sure you turn off the lights when you leave your home, and turning the heat down during the night can help you save on energy bills. Finally, a good way to save for a home in 12 months is to cut out going out. If you want to hang out with your friends, invite them over to your home. Just because you’re not going out, doesn’t mean you have to stop seeing your friends!

Be a deal hunter

While it’s not the most glamorous life, thrifting and coupon clipping can actually save you hundreds of dollars per month. If you shop at an expensive grocery store and find the same items for cheaper at a different grocery store, try shopping at the new store for a while. You’d be surprised how much money you can save by cutting down grocery spending. Additionally, if you are looking for simple items such as sandwich bags or glass jars, stores like the dollar store have similar items for much less.

Look for a side hustle

Side hustles are common, especially if you’re saving up for a big purchase. See if there are ways to work extra hours at your job. Additionally, driving for a ride share service during your days off, can give you an extra few hundred dollars at the end of the month. Think about your skills and talents that you could parlay into freelance income.

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