Blog :: 10-2013

Bringing Fall Into Your Home

With over half of all homeowners planning to make some type of improvement to their home this year, the question is, what exactly are they changing? Homeowners are choosing to wait until the high temperatures break and cooler weather hits to begin outdoor work, and home improvement companies are looking to unload new products to prepare for the new season, allowing homeowners to grab some great deals as autumn begins.

The most common fall home improvement projects include fencing, interior and exterior painting, window work, flooring, and roof repair, all of which are in preparation for the cold winter weather when home improvement projects are not at the top of your priority list. By getting these projects done before winter, you can put your home improvement projects to rest until spring without worrying about leaky roofs, cold air coming through cracks in the windows, and maintaining the value of your home with fencing and a fresh coat of paint.

"The cooler autumn temperatures make for the perfect time to focus more on the home and any remodeling projects," says Jeremy Floyd of Fence Center. "Such projects like adding in bamboo or aluminum fencing, not only increases your family's security, but the value of your home. Now that autumn is officially here, people are likely beginning to get these home improvement projects rolling."

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When the weather begins to turn cold, take cues from fall to warm up your world. Think about the decorating styles that appeal to you and use the following tips for guidance:

Look to Elemental Colors: Air, Earth, Fire and Water; nature inspires the most beautiful colors. Colors reflecting air will make your home breathe. Earth inspired colors will ground and calm a room. Colors pulling from water inspire playful fun, and lastly those reflecting fire will say bold confidence.

Take Natures Cues: As the air turns cool, nature gives us clues as to which colors make your home feel warm and cozy in the fall. Look around at the fall foliage and you'll see vibrant golds, rich reds, deep chocolate browns and toasty oranges. These colors inspire life and energy as the days get darker and cooler. Look for ways to incorporate these colors and scenes into your room decor. National Geographic Wallpaper or wall murals can help create this inviting nature setting.

Go Natural: With the increasing focus on the environment, there are abundant products available today that reflect and are good for nature. These products often incorporate earthy colors and textures; a perfect theme for fall. Choose eco-friendly shades which are PVC-free and 100 percent recyclable.

'Tis the Season: Carve out a tall pumpkin and use it as a flower vase or use small pumpkins for candles. A throw pillow, bowl of fresh citrus fruit or a bouquet of cut flowers are inexpensive ways to provide some color pop while welcoming your guests with the feel of nature.

Come Together: Gather around the fireplace. Rearrange your furniture to set your fireplace, instead of the TV, as the focal point of the room. Footstools, ottomans, and floor pillows by the fire create an inviting, warm atmosphere that will get you through the harshest days of winter. If you don't want the hassle of starting and maintaining a fire, try placing tall white candles in the fireplace for a similar glow.

Go Vibrant: Add a few splashes of vibrant color. They enrich any look and keep you from feeling drab. Deep colors also inspire confidence. Use an area rug to add warmth and personality to any room.

Go Circular: Designing a wreath is one of the easiest DIY projects you could hope for. And this time of year there is an abundance of colorful items to choose from at your local craft store or around your home. Get the kids involved and make it a family project.

Prepare for Winter: Now is the time to prep your home. There are several easy steps you can take. Consider insulating cellular shades or lined window treatments such as thermal curtains or foam-backed draperies for older, drafty windows. Insulate your water heater with insulation wrap. Seal leaks and drafts with caulk or weather strips. Clean your furnace and change your air filter. And lastly, but certainly not least, install a programmable thermostat. This allows you to conserve energy during the day while you're at work and at night while you sleep, but still come home or wake up to a warm, cozy home.

A fun fall project: Create an indoor play area

John Powell (powellrenovations.com) at Powell Custom Homes and Renovations of Des Moines, Washington provides these tips:

Choose a theme - Plan the entire room around a single thematic element based on a child's favorite subject, game or character. Or use the theme to create variety, such as a "story time" theme with your child's favorite storybook characters incorporated into the decor. A themed, "special" room will give your child more incentive to spend time there, and will even help him or her to keep it clean.

Go crazy with colors - Neon paint colors are just fine here; don't worry about matching or clashing.  Think about the fantasy worlds your children are seeing on television - the more outlandish, the more tempting the space will be for them.

Think small - Kids love spaces that are sized for them. Plan the space for smaller people, but think ahead so your kids don't outgrow the space within the year.

Kids play rough - No matter how bomb proof you make the space, someone is bound to knock his head against the side of any piece of furniture or anything built into the space. Try to find things with rounded edges. If you buy a piece of furniture with hard corners, ask your contractor to sand it down.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2013. All rights reserved.

Feature image: thetutorializer.com

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The Ups and Downs of Interest Rates

We all know interest rates go up and down. But do we know why or how that affects each of us on a personal level?

In the last 12 months we have seen interest rates as low as 3.375% on a 30-year fixed mortgage and as high as 5.00% on the same loan. Currently (9/30/13) the interest rates are sitting around 4.50%.  What has caused the large shifts in rate?

Mortgage interest rates typically inversely follow bonds, specifically the 10 year T-bill.  As the cost of the 10 year T-bill goes up and the yield on return goes down, so do interest rates.  As the price of the 10 year T-bill goes down and yields go up, interest rates typically go up.  Over the last few years you may have heard the term QE (quantitative easing).  This is an economic stimulant program from the Federal Reserve (The Fed) with which they have been putting "cash" into the market by buying assets such as mortgage back securities (MBS).  By purchasing mortgage back securities The Fed has been able to artificially drive down the mortgage interest rates.  The private investor purchasing MBS is looking for a higher return, while the Fed is more concerned with driving the economy as a whole, not padding their pocket.

As the economy struggled, the Fed continued to purchase assets, thus we had QE 2 and QE 3.  The Fed has been buying billions of dollars of MBS per month, continuing to drive the interest rates down.  As the economy has slowly improved, the Fed has threatened to slow or stop completely their asset purchasing program.  In August, there was discussion that the Fed would begin pulling back as early as the 4th quarter.   Interest rates jumped up to most recent highs of 5.00%.   In September they reevaluated the economy, jobs and the GNP to realize they may have overestimated the economic growth.  At which point, the Fed announced that they did not plan to stop or slow their asset purchasing program and rates began to drop again to our current rate of 4.50%.

How does this affect you, the home buyer?

Here is a quick example: On a $200,000 loan at 4.50% you will pay $1,013.37 / month for principal and interest. At an interest rate of 5.00% you will pay $1,135.58 / month for that same $200,000.  That is an increase of almost 11%. To look at this differently, at a 5.50% interest rate, if you borrowed 10% less or $180,000 you would have a monthly principal and interest payment of $1,022.02.  With a 1 percent increase in rate you have reduced you borrowing power by approximately 10%. As the price of houses go up and interest rates go up you have reduced your buying power by over 10%.  My suggestion, get out there and buy now while your purchasing power is still really strong.

Article written for NELR by Jeff Teplitz, Mortgage Loan Officer, EverBank - Dedicated to helping clients throughout the mortgage process, with over 8 years of mortgage experience and a thorough knowledge of the Vermont and Northern New England markets.

Featured image: homesolid.com

 

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