How to Build More Equity in Your Home

Home equity is the stake in your home you actually own. The more equity you have, the more you stand to gain when it’s time to sell later on.

You can also tap home equity via loans or lines of credit when you need to pay for home improvements, medical bills, college tuition or any other costs that you might be dealing with.

Do you want help increasing the equity you have in your home? Here are five simple ways to do it:

  • Choose your neighborhood carefully. Buy a house in an area where home values are on the rise. When the value of your house increases, so does your equity.

  • Make a bigger down payment. Down payments go straight toward your home’s price. That means that the larger your down payment is, the more equity you’ll have from the start.

  • Pay down your mortgage. The lower your home loan balance goes, the larger your share in the home gets. Consider putting windfalls (like tax refunds) toward your loan each year.

  • Make smart upgrades. Remodeling your home can increase your property value, so choose your home improvement projects wisely. But remember that, while your equity will rise, so could your home insurance costs.

  • Refinance to a shorter loan term. Going from a 30-year mortgage to a 15-year loan could allow you to pay off your mortgage — and build equity — faster.

Want to talk more about equity and the financial options it affords you? Get in touch today.

Add a Touch of Warmth to Your Home

As the days get shorter and temperatures begin to drop, indoor living becomes the norm. But just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean your home’s interior has to be chilly, too!

With a little imagination — and redecoration — you can create a cozier living space and enjoy a warmer winter hibernation.

Here are four ways you can use decor to add warmth to your home:

1. Use area rugs to divide larger spaces.
Airy, open rooms with sparse furniture arrangements can often feel cold and lonely. By simply adding an area rug or two, you can break these spaces into smaller, more well-defined living areas. A corner area rug could offset a small office area, while a larger rug could tie together an informal dining area.

2. Arrange furniture to create a sense of intimacy.
Always choose and arrange furniture with the purpose of your room in mind. If your furniture is spaced too far apart, it will make conversations awkward and strained. And you wouldn’t want the furniture in your reading nook to be uncomfortable.

3. Take advantage of natural materials.
If your home boasts natural woods or exposed brick, these are elements that can be tastefully incorporated into your design plan. Imagine how a natural wooden coffee table could be used to complement vaulted ceilings with exposed wood beams.

4. Get creative with color combinations.
A touch of color can immediately impact the perception of a room. If you’re looking for a warm, autumnal feel, go with a variety of rich red and orange tones. Use throw pillows, blankets and other textured accents to make the room pop. A basket full of quilts can be both convenient and aesthetically pleasing.

Want to make a more substantial change to your home, such as installing a brand-new fireplace? Reach out to discuss your financing options.

Should you remodel your home or move?

You love your home. You’ve made it your own and have lots of happy memories there. But maybe it no longer suits you and your family as well as it did before.

Maybe it’s too small or lacks the features you need — or you might simply want something different. Either way, it’s no longer the dream home it once was.

When this happens, you have two options: buy a new place or remodel your current one.

Not sure which is best for your situation? Here are some pros and cons of each:

Planning to make a move?
On the plus side, you get a new home that meets all your needs — and maybe even a better location. And you won’t be stuck in a construction zone for weeks or months on end.

But on the other hand, you’ll probably need to deal with selling your house and buying a new one simultaneously, which can be complicated. You’ll need the money for a down payment, closing costs and the actual move.

Think remodeling is the answer?
Advantages of remodeling include staying put and avoiding the time, cost and stress of moving. You might increase your home’s value as well, which could mean more profits if you decide to sell later.

The downside? Renovations aren’t always quick or easy. You might be surrounded by construction, contractors and materials for months. It also has its limits — you may not be able to achieve everything you want.

Though both routes have their pros and cons, the right choice depends on your budget, the real estate market and your family’s preferences. If you’re not sure, reach out for guidance. We can also discuss your financing options for a remodel or a new home.

4 Ways to Prepare Your Garden for Fall

We’re heading into the fall season, and that means cooler weather is on its way. This is the perfect opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors, tend to your garden and improve your home’s curb appeal — all in one fell swoop.

Are you looking forward to spending some time sprucing up your yard and preparing your garden for autumn? Be sure to add these four tasks to your to-do list before getting started:

  • Start With the Basics: Pull up weeds, dig out your annual or seasonal bulbs, and clear out any leaves, dead plants and debris. You should also spend some time tilling the soil before adding new soil and mulch.

  • Prep for the Elements: You’ll want to invest in garden covers, which help guard against pests and colder temperatures. If you have an automatic sprinkler system, be sure to adjust its schedule since you’ll need less water when it’s not as hot outside.

  • Add Fall-Friendly Plants: If you removed seasonal plants, you could replace them with some that thrive in cooler weather. Chrysanthemums are a good flower for fall, and if you’re looking to plant produce, kale and cabbage are both smart options.

  • Include a Festive Touch: For even more curb appeal, consider adding some gourds, cornstalks or pumpkins. You can also change out your colorful summer flowerpots for orange- and red-hued ones.

Do you need a loan for a landscaping makeover — or to purchase a new home? Get in touch today to learn about your financing options.

Home Projects With the Highest Returns

If you’re spending time and money to renovate your house, choosing which projects are worth it should be a top priority. You want to recoup some of your costs, don’t you?

Many upgrades could improve a property’s aesthetics or make it a better fit for your family. But not all projects will increase your home’s value — and those choices might affect how much your home sells for later on.

If you’re looking for remodeling projects that will get you a return on your investment, you may want to focus on these:

  • Stone Veneer Exterior: This is the highest-ROI project you can take on. The average homeowner recoups nearly 96% of the total cost. Plus, it does wonders for your curb appeal.

  • Wooden Deck: Want a great way to get more use out of your yard? This is the perfect place to start. A wood deck could add over $10,000 to your resale value.

  • Metal Roofing: Replacing your shingled roof with metal may net you about 61% of your project cost back and add more than $24,000 to your home’s resale value. As a bonus, it could help lower your energy bill.

  • New Garage Door: Upgrade your standard old garage door for a nicer model, like a wood or paneled one. In return, you might get a whopping 94.5% of your costs back — and improve your curb appeal to boot.

  • Major Kitchen Remodel: Any amount of kitchen remodeling is good for your home’s value. But a major overhaul can add more than $40,000 to your future sales price.

Need help covering the costs of your next home improvement project? Get in touch to learn about refinancing, home equity loans and other options.

Could refinancing save you money?

If you’re a homeowner, you might think that all the recent talk of low mortgage rates doesn’t affect you. But that isn’t true — they may be your key to savings.

Even if you had a sizable down payment or received a competitive interest rate at the time, refinancing your home now could mean saving thousands over the life of your loan. Ask yourself these four questions before making up your mind:

  1. Have your finances improved? If you have a better financial profile now than when you bought your home, you may be able to make a larger monthly payment with a lower interest rate, speeding up your mortgage repayment. If your credit score has improved or you have a higher income, this applies to you.

  2. How much have interest rates dropped? Mortgage rates fluctuate with changes in the economy. You may be able to obtain a more cost-effective mortgage today than when you first purchased the property, even if rates have only dropped by a percentage point.

  3. How much will refinancing cost? The process will likely cost you a percentage of the amount you borrow. Remember the application and appraisal fees when you bought your home? They apply here too. Another thing to consider: If your home interest payment is a tax deduction, a decrease in your interest amount could lower that deduction.

  4. How much longer will you be in the home? If you’re not planning to stay in your current home very long, and therefore won’t need to pay off the mortgage, refinancing shouldn’t be your top priority. Spending the time and money on that process won’t pay off like it would if you stay in your home for another 10 years or more.

Are you ready to refinance? Do you have specific questions about your situation? Reach out today.

5 Quick Tips for Dazzling Curb Appeal

Take a good look at your home’s exterior. Does it give the first impression you want to make?

What could you do better to improve the look — and maybe value — of your property?

Whether you’re planning to sell your home or you just want to make it more inviting, one of the best things you can do is add curb appeal. It’s a quick fix that makes a huge statement.

So how can you make your abode more beautiful?

Make your house (numbers) stand out. Can friends, prospective buyers and delivery people read your address from the street? Or is it too small or tarnished to see? The latter means it’s time for a change. Invest in larger, more attractive house numbers to make a big impact.

Give your mailbox a facelift. You may barely notice it, but passersby do. Your mailbox isn’t a very welcome sight if it looks neglected. Replacing it — or simply painting it a fresh new color — is a no-brainer for quickly boosting curb appeal.

Revive your front door. This is the focal point of your home’s exterior. If yours is receding into the background, pick a bold paint color and some bright, shiny hardware to bring it back to the forefront.

Add interest with plants. Don’t just mow and edge your lawn; spruce it up with fresh mulch and flowers too. And if you flank your newly painted front door with pretty planters, it’ll pop even more.

Make the exterior sparkle. Last but not least, clean your windows so that they sparkle and shine. Don’t forget to pressure-wash your house, sidewalks and driveway so it all looks like new.

Just a little bit of work makes it more inviting and easier for buyers to picture themselves living there.

4 Ways to Finance Home Improvements

Owning a home is a dream come true. But the costs of homeownership can sometimes feel like a challenge.

So where does that leave you if you’re hoping to expand your square footage, replace appliances or give your home an updated look?

You shouldn’t be worried about the financial impact of your home improvement projects. Here are four options to keep things affordable:

  1. Use your equity. 
    The best source for renovation costs may be your home itself. If you’ve built up equity, a home equity loan or line of credit could help finance your project.

    If current interest rates are lower than yours, refinancing may lower your monthly payment. Then you can save the difference to pay for home improvements.

  2. Rethink your savings.
    Saving for potential future emergencies is smart. But if home improvements are needed, earmark part of your savings for that. You can even open up a high-yield account for those savings to make sure you only spend them on maintenance.

  3. Calculate your return.
    Using your savings or taking out a loan for renovations is daunting. One way to assure yourself that it’s a smart decision is by determining how much the project will add to your home’s resale value. See what your return is likely to be with the latest Cost vs. Value report.

  4. Try starting small.
    A full kitchen remodel might be on your wish list, but is it in your budget? You can still make improvements, just on a smaller scale.

    Painting the walls or cabinets and changing out light fixtures, hardware or window treatments are all quick fixes that give you a fresh look while you save for bigger things.

Need Money? Equity May Be the Answer

As a homeowner, your equity is your secret weapon. With every mortgage payment you make, your stake in the home grows — and so does your equity.

When your equity stake is large enough, it can be used to improve your financial standing. Tap into it to pay off debts, use it to cover home improvement costs or, most importantly, consider it a safety net in case of emergency.

Have you been paying down your current mortgage for some time? Then you probably have equity to tap. So what can you do with it?

  • Home Equity Loan: This is a loan you take out in addition to your existing mortgage. It lets you borrow against your stake in the home in exchange for a lump-sum, one-time payment. 

    Often, you’re able to borrow up to 85% of your home’s appraised value, minus what you owe. Many homeowners use these for large expenses like tuition, medical bills or the down payment on an additional property.

  • Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC): HELOCs work like credit cards, only without the sky-high interest rates. The equity in your home is used to create a line of credit that you draw from as needed. 

    HELOCs typically come with long draw periods (think decades) and are often used for ongoing expenses, like regular home improvements or maintenance. This method should allow you to borrow 75% to 80% of your home’s appraised value, minus what you still owe.

  • Cash-Out Refinance: Refinancing essentially replaces your existing mortgage loan. You take out a new loan larger than the balance on your current one, and then keep the difference in cash to cover whatever expenses you’re facing. 

    You can typically borrow up to 80% of your equity with a cash-out refi. Some homeowners use the money to pay off debts or high-balance credit 

Get a Fresh Look With a New Backsplash

Your kitchen is the heart and soul of your home. After all, it’s the place where countless memories are made alongside family and friends.

So it’s worth making your kitchen a welcoming, appealing space. One easy way to do that? With a stylish backsplash.

That panel of tiles behind your sink, stove and countertops does more than protect your walls from splashes. It also adds dimension and detail to your kitchen.

Looking for fresh backsplash ideas? Try these:

  • Get creative with color pairing. Many people like to match their backsplash to their countertops. But adding red tiles behind a white countertop, for example, can add excitement and character to your kitchen. Or install a black backsplash behind white counters to give your kitchen a chic, modern look.

  • Go for a classic look. Subway tiles are popular for a reason. Named for the tiles you find in subway stations, they’ll give your kitchen a clean, vintage look.

  • Add intricate detail. Sure, you can’t go wrong with classic square or rectangular tiles. But opting for tiles that have been laser cut into complex shapes can give your backsplash an eye-catching mosaic effect.

  • Step outside the box. Moving beyond basic backsplash materials and having fun with different textures is a great way to give your kitchen some memorable flair. Try brick or exposed tin to make it stand out.

  • Emphasize functionality. Adding pegboard with hooks to your backsplash can turn it into a decorative space to store pots, pans and more.