Tired of your kitchen? Obviously one way of rejuvenating the room would be to take it down to the studs and start over. But introducing a new look and feel doesn't have to mean a comprehensive (read: pricey) overhaul. In fact, with a combination of much more modest measures like hardware replacement and cabinet refacing, it's often possible to achieve similarly dramatic results for a whole lot less.
By Donna Boyle Schwartz
Hang on a second: Before you decide to take on the hassle and expense of a full-fledged kitchen renovation, consider that a variety of cheaper, easier alternatives can deliver a similarly dramatic transformation, especially in combination. For instance, homeowners typically treat details like cabinet hardware as trivial—as “an afterthought,” according to Jim Eldredge, a product manager with Sears Home Services. But in the kitchen, he says, seemingly unimportant components “can make a surprisingly big impact on the overall room design.” That said, replacing your cabinet hardware isn’t magic; it can’t make timeworn cabinets look new again. If your kitchen has seen better days, take the time to look closely at the condition of both the cabinet boxes and the cabinet doors. So long as the boxes remain in decent condition, you can actually leave them intact and only reface or replace the cabinet doors. Especially when paired with new hardware, updated cabinet fronts can totally remake the look of your kitchen in short order and typically on a small budget.
Whether you decide to install new cabinet doors or simply refinish the existing ones, Eldredge cautions that when it comes to selecting cabinet hardware, it’s a mistake to “focus on aesthetics alone.” To prove satisfactory over the long term, new hardware must do more than merely look good. There are a key practical considerations to keep in mind. Want to learn more about high-impact, low-budget kitchen upgrades?
Imagine sitting in a room with 108 millionaires and being able to pick their brains for three days.
What would you ask them?
What would you hope to learn?
This is the exact situation I found myself in last weekend, and the event completely changed my life, as I hope the lessons I learned, and communicate below, will change yours.
I recently joined this small, millionaire-only men's group (called GoBundance) in an effort to level-up my relationships and associate with people smarter and more successful than me.
There is a well-known (and anonymous) quote that goes, “If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room." This event was the "smarter room" I chose to place myself in.
Here's what I learned.
1. Don’t Be the Smartest Guy in the Room
Owning a home doesn’t need to be as costly as it does. We all know that if you own a home, all of the costs from the mortgage, utilities, maintenance, and upkeep add up and are expensive.
Just to make your life easier, I’ve made one fascinating collection of amazing and useful energy saving tips that will save you money.
Besides that all of these tips are free or cheap. They won’t cost you a lot, but they will make a big difference. Most of them don’t take a lot of time, and you don’t have to be a home-improvement expert.
Here are 15 of the best energy saving tips that will make your energy bills shrink.
1. Automate your thermostat
or use a post-it noteIn my first home, I would manually turn up the thermostat as I walked out the door to work, and I would manually adjust it down when I came home in the evening.
Last year I replaced all of the thermostats in my house with the Nest learning thermostat. It learns your schedule to keep your home comfortable when you are home. Nests’ are pricey, but according to the Nest website:
Some energy companies send you a $249 Nest Thermostat at no cost when you sign up for certain plans. Others give you an instant $100 rebate – no paperwork necessary. Even more energy companies offer traditional mail-in rebates
I wish I had known about this before buying mine. Oh well, my mistake for you to learn. Check with your utility provider to see what might be available in your area.
Set your thermostat as high as you feel comfortable – try 78ºF or higher when you’re at home, and 85ºF when you’re away.
If you can’t get a free or discounted smart thermostat from your utility provider, you can go the manual route like I used to. Go get a sticky note, and put it on the door you take to leave your home. Write a reminder to change the thermostat as you walk out the door. Simple and free.
Savings: $173 year (average for a programmed thermostat)
Cost: $0 – $250 per thermostat
2. Give your air conditioner some fresh air
Have you ever tried running really fast with a rag over your mouth? I haven’t either, but that’s what most people are expecting their AC units to do.
Many AC units are surrounded by shrubbery that can restrict the airflow needed to make the systems run optimally. Take a few minutes today or this weekend and look around your AC’s outdoor unit:
Time: 20 minutes
3. Block out the sun
All of those windows in your home are the largest source of heat flowing inside during hot summer days.
Closing the blinds and/or curtains blocks the sun from coming inside in the first place and will help prevent it from heating up, reducing the need for the AC to cool it down. Blocking the sun is especially important on the western and southern facing windows that receive the most direct sunlight.
Savings: $15-$35 / year
4. Use fans
A ceiling fan can make your room feel up to 7 degrees cooler. Fans will allow you to turn your AC up a couple extra degrees, saving even more money.
Savings: $35-$53 / year
Cost: FREE (assuming you have ceiling fans)
5. Shower power
Do you take a hot shower in the summer steaming up the bathroom mirrors? If so you’re adding heat back into your home that needs to cool.
Take a quicker shower. And take a warm shower instead of a burning hot one. Using less hot water will also save energy.
Savings: $50 / year
Time: 10 minutes
6. Replace air filters
Replace your HVAC filters at least every 6 months, preferably every 3. Clogged, dirty filters block airflow and reduce your system’s efficiency. In the worst case scenario, a wrongly sized filter or dirty filter can cause your system to burn out, requiring replacement.
Never use a higher rated MERV filter than the one you replace, unless a licensed professional tells you otherwise. The MERV rating is listed on the filter, and it will be something like 8, 11, 13, 15, or more. The higher the rating the more dust the filter collects, but the harder the system has to work. Using a higher rated filter for a system not designed to handle it is bad news.
Savings: 5% – 15% / year on energy
Time: 10 minutes
The 2016 Virginia residential real estate market outperformed its prior year performance, with nearly $38 billion in sales, according to a sales report released Tuesday by the Virginia REALTORS association (formerly known as the Virginia Association of Realtors).
Key measures, including total number of sales, value of all transactions, and median sales price, rose from their 2015 benchmarks. Altogether, the sum of all transactions was 8 percent higher than in 2015, which had a transaction value of $35 billion.
The fourth quarter also saw a bump in activity with 26,308 residential transactions closed, a 6.8 percent increase compared to the 24,639 units sold in the last three months of 2015. The value of those transactions totaled $8.5 billion, an increase of 8.9 percent from 2015’s fourth quarter volume of $7.8 billion.
“The fourth quarter sealed a year of impressive strength in Virginia’s housing market,” Claire Forcier-Rowe, president of Virginia REALTORS, said in a statement. “For buyers and sellers, 2016 was a year of opportunity. Particularly as inventory constraints eased in the last half of the year, we saw surges in activity and price. Buyers have been able to take advantage of low rates, even as they rose in the last quarter, and invested confidently at the end of the year.”
The rise in fourth quarter 2016 sales pace was propelled by a surge in November sales, usually a lull month in market activity. Virginia Realtors credited loosened inventory and a swell in consumer confidence following the federal elections —combined with a sense of urgency regarding interest rate movement — for escalating sales.
The trade group said that each quarter of 2016 outperformed its prior year benchmark, just as each quarter of 2015 outperformed those of 2014.
The aggregate median sales price for the fourth quarter was $265,000, an increase of 3.9 percent from the fourth quarter of 2015 ($255,175). Year-over-year median sales price increased in all regions, with the exception of the Southwest region, where price declined moderately.
Compared to the fourth quarter of last year, 2016 fourth quarter home sales increased in all price bands except the lowest under $100,000), where low levels of inventory affect the number of sales possible. Sales increased especially in the $300,000 to $500,000 range.
The average number of days on the market dropped to an average of 69 for the 2016 fourth quarter, 10.4 percent lower than last year’s fourth quarter average (77 days).
The Virginia Home Sales Report is published by the Virginia REALTORS association. Current and past reports are available to members, media, and real estate related-industries through the organization’s website.
Of all the things that cause us stress and anxiety — a heavy workload, financial woes and a cluttered home, to name a few — commuting to work is one of the most universally loathed. And it’s not just an unpleasant experience: Long commutes have been linked to a number of negative health outcomes, including high stress levels, poor sleep, unhealthy weight, and even a shorter life. A 2011 Swedish study also found that couples where one partner commutes for at least 45 to work each day have a 40 percent higher chance of getting divorced.
“Commuting is ... a mundane task about as pleasurable as assembling flat-pack furniture or getting your license renewed, and you have to do it every day,” Annie Lowrey wrote in a Slate article, “Your Commute Is Killing You,” after the Swedish study was published. “If you are commuting, you are not spending quality time with your loved ones. You are not exercising, doing challenging work, petting your dog, or playing with your kids (or your Wii).”
But your commute doesn’t have to be the bane of your existence — this time slot when you’re free to not do anything (except get yourself from point A to point B) can actually be one of the most relaxing parts of your day. Reframing the way you view the trip and trying some healthy tips can turn your commute from a twice-daily source of stress into a peaceful time to yourself between the demands of work and home. Scroll through the list below for six ways to de-stress (and maybe even enjoy) your commute.
You’ve probably overheard homeowners boast that they nabbed a “great interest rate” on their mortgage. But what is interest, exactly?
Essentially, interest is an extra fee you pay your lender for loaning you the money you need to buy a home. Lenders, after all, don’t just fork over their money out of the goodness of their hearts.
“They want to be compensated for putting money in your pocket,” says Jack Guttentag, author of “The Mortgage Encyclopedia.” Since mortgage lenders are providing cash upfront to make homeownership possible, they require you to repay the debt plus interest.
Now, if you’ve got a lot of dough lying around and want to pay for the whole house upfront with an all-cash offer, you can avoid paying interest. But let’s face it, most of us aren’t living in this dreamy scenario, which makes home loans and interest par for the course—so it pays, literally, to know how it all works.
How interest rates on home loans workWhen you get a mortgage, your interest payment is calculated as a percentage of the total loan amount. For example, say you get a 30-year $200,000 loan with a 4% interest rate. Over 30 years, you would end up paying back not only that $200,000, but an extra $143,739 in interest.
Please, Mr. PostmanSend me news, tips, and promos from realtor.com® and Move.
Sign UpMonth to month in the above scenario, your mortgage payments would amount to about $955 per month. Part of that monthly payment would go toward paying back what you borrowed (an amount known as your principal), and the rest goes toward interest.
The exact proportion varies month to month—early on, homeowners typically pay more interest and less principal—but that composition changes as the loan matures. For instance, in your very first month for the above scenario, you’d pay $288 to your principal and $676 to interest. By your last check to your lender 30 years later, you’d pay $951 toward principal and $3 toward interest (check out realtor.com®‘s mortgage calculator to punch in your own numbers).
So what does this payment schedule mean for homeowners? It means it will take time for you to build equity in your home, since you’re largely paying interest during the early years. Yet there’s an upside to this reality: Interest on a home loan is deductible on your taxes, so early on you will get a big tax break that dwindles as your equity rises.
Why interest rates fluctuateFluctuations are based on several factors.
“During a period of slack economic activity, [the Federal Reserve] will provide more funding and interest rates will go down,” says Guttentag. Conversely, “when the economy heats up and there’s a fear of inflation, [the Fed] will restrict funding and interest rates will go up.”
These financial shifts could be stressful if they affected your monthly mortgage payments, but luckily when you get a home loan, there’s a way to shield yourself from this roller coaster by getting a fixed-rate mortgage, which locks in your rate at whatever level it is at the time you apply. It remains the same over the life of your loan (typically 30 years). Or else, if you don’t mind the market’s ups and downs, you can opt for an adjustable-rate mortgage.
How to get a low-interest loanNot everyone who applies for a home loan gets the same interest rate. It varies widely depending on a variety of factors.
Probably the biggest variable is you: Interest rates for home loans vary depending on the borrower’s credit score. Good credit leads to lower interest rates, which is why it’s important to know your credit score and keep it stellar.
Your interest rate can also vary based the type of loan you get: 15-year loans, for example, typically offer lower interest rates than 30-year loans. ARMs have lower interest rates than fixed-rate mortgages (at least at first).
The bottom line: Paying interest may be a reality to homeownership, but how much interest you pay runs a wide gamut, so make sure you grasp the basics before you apply.
Be The Maintenance Man
Offer your services to the other cottage owners on the lake. Basic maintenance such as cutting the grass, weeding the garden, cutting firewood or painting the tool shed are all things that need to be done, but require time that people living in the city just don’t have. This is a great option for a cottage handyman who enjoys doing this type of work.
Cottage opening and closing services are also always in demand.
Be A Guide
Tourists and cottage renters all need help. Whether it’s locating the fishing holes, navigating the hidden reefs and islands, hiking the local trails or evaluating a property, there is always demand for a local expert to provide assistance. If you have owned your cottage for a number of years, you may be the perfect person for the job.
Write A Book
If you have a talent for writing but never had the time to start your novel, the cottage is the place to make it happen. You never know unless you try. Self-publishing and online publishing have made it possible for every writer to make his or her work available to the world. Many best sellers start out this way.
Make Cottage Handicrafts
The cottage is the perfect place to be creative. Woodworking, quilting and creating handicrafts are all fantastic options for unleashing your inner artist. The money earned by selling artwork at the local market during the cottage season may cover the costs of retirement living at the lake. You will also meet a lot of interesting people and may discover that your creations are in high demand.
Become A Cottage Bed And Breakfast
If you love to entertain and you are looking for a way to finance an early retirement at the cottage, why not set yourself up as a cottage B&B. It takes a lot of careful planning and consideration, but it may be the most rewarding decision you will ever make.
Create A Website And Cottage Blog
Running a website or writing a blog about your favourite hobby is the perfect activity for working from the cottage. By the end of the first season you could have a following of loyal readers and companies may be willing to pay you for ad positions.
Work As An Online Consultant
You have built up an expertise in a particular field, and now it’s time to set up a consulting service and run it from the cottage using video conferencing. Schedule meetings to work around your fishing time.
Trade Stocks Or Currencies
This one should only be undertaken by people who are already familiar with stock trading or currency trading. If the stock markets or currency markets are your passion, trading from the lake is much more comfortable than sitting in an office in the city.
Star A Cottage Delivery Service
Start a delivery service for other cottage owners. This could be for groceries, fishing supplies or even transporting guests and renters from the mainland to an island cabin.
Sell Real Estate
Become a real estate agent for your lake. The best cottage real estate agents are always people who actually live in the same area they are selling. You probably know your cottage community very well. Now you can use this expertise to help other people buy or sell cabins nearby.
Working from the cottage may require a leap of faith and a reduction in income, but if we are determined, we can figure it out and enjoy the life we have always dreamed of.
Go to the Leisure Activities page.
Go to the Cottage Trader article to get some information on how to start trading stocks from the cabin.
Buying a house in 2017 will feel kind of like you’ve jumped onto the subway just as the doors were closing. Your heart’s pounding and you’re winded from the race, but you made it—just in time.
OK, so maybe that’s a little exaggerated. But here’s the thing: Interest rates have begun to rise and will likely climb higher. Inventory is low and could shrink more. And home prices? Well, home prices are increasing—and they’re not predicted to fall any time soon.
If you don’t jump aboard the real estate train now, you might be too late.
And that’s not a smart gamble, our real estate experts say. If you’ve been toying with the idea of buying, or you anticipate a life change that might force you to move—such as a new baby or a job transfer—you should be “buying as urgently and as soon as possible,” Smoke says.
Find homes for sale on
So finish reading this, then start looking for a house. Here’s why.
1. Rates are rising
In 1981, when mortgage rates hit 18% and seemed to rise every day, single-digit rates seemed like an impossible dream.
Last August, however, rates on 30-year mortgages bottomed out at 3.55%. Now that the Federal Reserve finally decided to raise its key interest rate, mortgage rates have been climbing slowly. Today, the average rate is just above 4%; by 2019 or 2020, rates could easily climb to 6%. “All signs point to this trend continuing,” says Richard DeNapoli, managing director for Coral Gables Trust and a former Florida real estate commissioner.
Before you freak out, take heart: Rising rates aren’t necessarily a deal breaker for buyers. The National Association of Realtors® calculated that a rise from 4.2% to 5% would increase average monthly mortgage payments by $90—not nothing, but not a catastrophe, either. And if you take the long view, those higher rates are still historically low.
“For buyers there still is opportunity,” says Danielle Hale, managing director of housing research for the NAR. “For those who are still able to get into the market, these low rates continue to be helpful.”
Another upside: When rates go up, competition and prices often go down.
“I’d tell buyers not to panic, because higher mortgage rates eventually cause sellers to be more flexible on pricing,” DeNapoli says.
2. Inventory is shrinking
In November 2016, there were only 1.85 million homes for sale. That’s a nearly 10% drop from the year before. And it continues a trend of steady decline since just before the housing crash, when inventory peaked.
Real estate experts predict that inventory will continue to shrink, at least for the foreseeable future. That means that in most areas of the country, buyers have more homes to choose from today than they will next year.
Or even next month. If you get moving now (during the winter, which is largely considered to be real estate’s off-season), you’ll have less competition for those homes than you will in the peak spring and summer months.
Bottom line: Every day you wait to start looking for a new home, you face stiffer competition for fewer homes.
“If you think it’s bad right now, wait until April to August,” Smoke says.
3. Home prices are still rising
The bad news for buyers is that home prices now stand higher than before the 2007 crash, increasing 5% from 2015 to 2016. And housing experts expect an additional 2% to 3% jump in 2017, DeNapoli says.
“Prices continue to go up; we have yet to see that ceiling,” says Trevor Levin, a real estate agent with Nourmand & Associates in Los Angeles. “I think they have room to grow.”
How high prices will rise and how long they’ll remain high is anyone’s guess. Rising mortgage rates and the new Trump administration have introduced “uncertainty” into the real estate market, Levin says.
“And uncertainty is never ideal,” he says.
The good news? If you jump into the market pronto, you just might make it before those doors close.
As a residential housing developer, I felt like I could do it all—visualize a project, stand for hours on permitting lines, then run all the crews needed to build the house. But I was hiding a secret: If you put me in a room filled with backsplash tiles, or threw a book of paint chips in my lap, I froze. Interior design is simply not my thing.
So for each project, I hired an interior designer who made the choices I couldn’t. Together, we’d mix and match, discuss the pros and cons, and eventually select the elements that made my projects beautiful and unique, IMHO.
But finding the right designer for you can be daunting, especially when there are so many to choose from. (About 68,000 interior designers work in the U.S., according to the American Society of Interior Designers, or ASID.) In fact, finding a great designer involves as much alchemy as legwork.
Do it yourself, also known as DIY, is the method of building, modifying, or repairing things without the direct aid of experts or professionals. Academic research describes DIY as behaviors where "individuals engage raw and semi-raw materials and component parts to produce, transform, or reconstruct material possessions, including those drawn from the natural environment (e.g. landscaping)". DIY behavior can be triggered by various motivations previously categorized as marketplace motivations (economic benefits, lack of product availability, lack of product quality, need for customization), and identity enhancement (craftsmanship, empowerment, community seeking, uniqueness)
The term "do-it-yourself" has been associated with consumers since at least 1912 primarily in the domain of home improvement and maintenance activities. The phrase "do it yourself" had come into common usage (in standard English) by the 1950s, in reference to the emergence of a trend of people undertaking home improvement and various other small craft and construction projects as both a creative-recreational and cost-saving activity.
Subsequently, the term DIY has taken on a broader meaning that covers a wide range of skill sets. DIY is associated with the international alternative rock, punk rock, and indie rock music scenes; indymedia networks, pirate radio stations, and the zine community. In this context, DIY is related to the Arts and Crafts movement, in that it offers an alternative to modern consumer culture's emphasis on relying on others to satisfy needs and organize without the need of a handyman. The abbreviation DIY is also widely used in the military as a way to teach commanders or other types of units to take responsibility, so that they'd be able to do things themselves just as a preparation for their own future.