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Let There Be Light! 3 Easy Ways to Make over a Room by Adding New Light Fixtures

Let There Be Light! 3 Easy Ways to Make over a Room by Adding New Light Fixtures Light is an important design element that can be used to influence your interior decor in a number of ways. In fact, you can experience a major transformative change on the overall style and ambiance of a room by making a few simple lighting changes. Consider how these ideas can help you to improve the look of your space with great results, and think about ways that you can improve your space by making a few changes.

The Addition of Spotlights

If you have fine pieces of artwork, decorative display areas or other features that you want to illustrate with beautiful clarity, the addition of spotlights is a great idea. You can shine light on these special features in your home by installing a single, bright fixture with a focused beam overhead, or you can use track lighting to highlight larger features. In some cases, the design or layout of your room may be sufficient to allow lighting to be placed at eye-level or even below the fixture to shine upward at it.

Background Illumination

While spotlights can shine a focused beam of light on fixtures, you can also use background lighting for ambiance. Consider how you can incorporate background lighting with under-cabinet kitchen lighting, dimmer recessed lighting placed behind a sofa or other features. Generally, these are lights that do not provide direct lighting, and the light may not be the main source of light in the room. It may even have a hint of color to it for a dramatic flair that further establishes ambiance.

Beautiful Lamps

Another idea is to use beautiful or decorative lamps in your room. These may be smaller desk lamps, towering floor lamps or table top lamps. There are lamps available in a wide range of colors, sizes and styles. The lighting from the lamps may influence ambiance and provide functional lighting, but the decorative nature of the lamps themselves can enhance the décor even when the lights are not turned on.

There are many different types of lighting that can influence your home’s décor, and in many cases, it makes sense to incorporate each of these styles of lighting in a single room to enjoy different benefits. You can study your rooms’ layouts and designs today to learn more about how the existing light fixtures influence decor, and you can make a few appropriate changes to enjoy better overall results for your space.

FOMC Statement: No Year-End Surprises

You Ask, We Answer: How to Choose Between Expanding Your Current Home and Buying a New OneThe Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) said in its last statement for 2014 that although economic conditions have improved at a moderate pace, the Fed believes that the target federal funds rate of between 0.00 and 0.25 percent remains “appropriate.” While labor markets show expanding job growth and lower unemployment rates, FOMC members noted that housing markets are recovering slowly.

Inflation remains below the committee’s target rate of two percent; this was attributed to lower fuel costs. Household income and business investment were seen as increasing, and the underutilization of workforce resources was described as “diminishing.” These developments indicate better economic conditions for consumers, business and job seekers, as employers picked up the pace of hiring.

Target Fed Funds Rate Unchanged

No year-end changes in monetary policy were made; the Fed issued its usual statement that developing economic conditions would guide the Committee’s decisions concerning the target federal funds rate. The FOMC statement said that changes could be made according to progress toward or away from achieving the Fed’s dual mandate of maximum employment and price stability. No specific date was given for raising the target federal funds rate. The FOMC statement noted that no change is likely as long as the inflation rate remains below the Fed’s longer-term target of two percent.

The FOMC statement was followed by a press conference given by Janet Yellen, fed chair and Chair of the FOMC. 

Fed Chair: Oil Price Influence on Inflation “Transitory” 

Janet Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve and FOMC, said that she expects lower oil prices to be a transitory influence on inflation, which continues to run lower than the Fed’s target rate of two percent. Media representatives noted that Chair Yellen replaced the phrase “considerable time” with “patient” in reference to when the Fed might raise the target federal funds rate.

Ms. Yellen said that the gross domestic product (GDP) had increased by 2.50 percent over the prior four quarters ending with the third quarter of 2014, and said that the economy continues to grow at approximately the same pace. Concerning falling inflation, Ms. Yellen said that she expected the inflation rate to increase after transitory influences including oil prices dissipate. The Fed Chair said that she perceived lower oil prices to be a positive development for the U.S. economy on net.

In response to questions about when the Fed would raise the target federal funds rate, Chair Yellen said that it would likely occur sometime in 2015 and also mentioned “sometime after the next couple of FOMC meetings. This suggests that mid 2015 may bring a change, but Ms. Yellen repeated the Fed’s oft-stated position that continual review of economic conditions and developing trends would impact any decision to change or not change the federal funds rate.

First-Time Condo Buyer? What to Expect from Your New Homeowners Association

First-Time Condo Buyer? What to Expect from Your New Homeowners AssociationEvery owner of condominium property automatically becomes a member of a homeowners association, otherwise referred to a “HOA” throughout the United States or a “Strata” in Canada. With that membership come certain rights and responsibilities. The primary right that the owner has is to vote at HOA meetings and elect board members. Responsibilities include payment of condo fees and assessments, compliance with association by-laws and rules, and maintaining a condo unit in conformity with those by-laws and rules.

Let’s take a quick look at various other terms you may hear about from your new HOA.

Declaration of Condominium and By-Laws

The declaration of condominium establishes the existence of a condominium property. It gives the precise location of the property through a legal description and describes each individual unit in the development along with the various common elements.

Individual Units

Ownership of an individual condominium unit is defined by the declaration of condominium and ordinarily consists of the interior walls and everything within the interior walls of a dwelling unit. Anything outside of that unit is usually considered to be a common element, such as the entryway, the swimming pool, the tennis courts, the parking lots and more.

Common Elements

This is property both inside and outside of buildings that the individual condo owner has an undivided interest in. It would include any common hallways, garages, parking lots, recreational facilities and open space on the property described by the declaration of condominium. If for example, there are 100 units in a condominium development, each individual unit has an undivided one percent interest in the common elements.

Running a Homeowners Association

Homeowners associations tend to operate like a small democracy. When matters are brought up at meetings to be voted on, each condo unit has one vote. Each HOA has an elected board of directors. They’ll meet once a month to decide on association business and make decisions on behalf of the HOA. The unit owners are permitted to be present at these meetings.

Owners’ Responsibilities Inside Their Units

Owners are responsible for any repairs within the walls of their dwelling unit. They might be responsible for damage to other units from leaks or flooding from a burst pipe. Depending on the by-laws, the unit owner might be responsible for maintenance or repairs of any pipes or electrical wires running behind their walls. The association is responsible for anything on the common elements.

Don’t let the purchase of your next home get derailed. If you’re thinking of getting started on condo shopping, your trusted, reputable and highly experienced real estate professional will guide you through your condominium purchase.

Home Builder Index Stays Near Nine Year Peak

Home Builder Index Stays Near Nine Year Peak

Home Builder Sentiment slipped to a reading of 57 in December according to the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index. November’s reading of 58 prompted analysts to project a reading of 59 for December. The latest reading marks the sixth consecutive month for readings above 50. Any reading over 50 indicates that more builders are positive about housing market conditions than not.

The one-point decline in December’s reading kept the NAHB Housing Market Index within two points of a nine-year high reached in September.

NAHB: Housing Market Index Suggests Slow Return to Normalcy

NAHB’s chief economist, David Crowe, said that December’s reading was in line with NAHB’s assessment that housing markets are on a “slow march back to normal.” Home builder confidence in conditions contributing to the NAHB Housing Market Index also fell in two categories while remaining unchanged in one.

The gauge of builder confidence in current market conditions moved from last month’s reading of 62 to 61. Builder confidence in upcoming home sales fell from 65 to 64, while confidence in prospective buyer traffic was unchanged at a reading of 45. These results are consistent with real estate market trends slowing during the holiday season and winter months.

Builders Challenged in 2014, Better Conditions Expected in 2015

Analysts said that steady builder confidence may be a result of builders surviving a tough year in 2015. Market conditions, unpredictable interest rates and higher costs of supplies along with high unemployment subdued builder confidence during 2014. The New Year brings prospects of easing mortgage standards and better labor markets, which are expected to boost builder confidence as more home buyers enter the market for new homes.

The Commerce Department is set to release Housing Starts for November on December 16; analysts expect an increase to 1.035 million starts on a seasonally adjusted annual basis as compared to October’s reading of 1.01 million starts. A positive reading for housing starts could further bolster home builder confidence for future readings.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 15, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week December 15 2014

Although there were few scheduled economic events related to mortgages and housing, last week brought an article about housing projections for 2015. Other news included increased job openings along with lower than expected jobless claims and higher mortgage rates.

Job Openings, Retail Sales and Mortgage Rates Rise

The U.S. Department of Commerce reported that November job increased to 4.80 million as compared to October’s reading of 4.70 million job openings. Weekly jobless claims corresponded as new claims fell to 294,000 as compared to the prior week’s reading of 297,000 new jobless claims. This was the lowest reading for new jobless claims in three weeks. Analysts had expected a reading of 206,000 new jobless claims.

Further signs of economic strengthening were seen in the retail sector. Retail sales posted their strongest gains in eight months with a gain of 0.70 percent in November according to the Commerce Department. November’s reading exceeded expectations of a 0.40 percent increase which was based on October’s original reading of a 0.30 percent increase in retail sales. November’s retail sales (excluding automotive sales) rose by 0.50 percent, which was the highest reading since June. October’s reading was later revised to 0.50 percent. Automotive sales rose by 1.70 percent in November, which was their highest reading since August.

Amidst last week’s economic gains, mortgage rates also rose. Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.93 percent, a gain of four basis points over the previous week. The average rate 15-year mortgage gained 10 basis points at 3.20 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by four basis points to 2.94 percent. Average discount points for all three loan types remained steady at 0.50 percent.

Analysts Offer Housing Predictions for 2015

Fortune reported predictions made by analysts during a panel discussion on housing trends. David M. Blitzer, chairman of the S& P Index Committee, characterized next year’s housing trends as “mysterious.” Analysts pinpointed the influence of the millennial generation as gaining strength in housing markets. As millennials begin to buy their first homes, their tastes and preferences are expected to overshadow the long-held influence of the baby boomer generation. Millennial influence includes a trend called millennial mis-match; Millennials prefer to live in high-cost areas including New York City, Honolulu, Hawaii and Austin, Texas, but their status as first-time home buyers conflicts with this preference. Other trends discussed by analysts attending the panel discussion included:

Mortgage rates predicted to rise: Stronger economic conditions and no Federal stimulus are expected to contribute to rising mortgage rates, which some analysts said were expected to rise to approximately 5.00 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage.

Home price growth and affordability expected to decline: Home prices gained 6.40 percent year-over-year in October 2014 as compared to growth of 10.60 percent for the same period in 2013. High demand for homes in pricey markets coupled with rising mortgage rates are expected to price the middle class out of many high-demand markets.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic events include the Wells Fargo/National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index report for December and the Commerce Department’s December report on Housing Starts. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve will release its customary statement after its meeting concludes on Wednesday. The FOMC statement will be followed by a press conference given by Fed chair Janet Yellen, who also chairs the FOMC.

Don’t Be That Guy or Gal: 3 Easy Ways to Ruin Your Relationship with Your Real Estate Agent

Don't Be That Guy or Gal: 3 Easy Ways to Ruin Your Relationship with Your Real Estate AgentAre you thinking about buying or selling a home? If you don’t know a real estate agent or have a referral to one, you may end up working with someone unfamiliar who you will need to build a relationship with. Of course, as with any relationship there’s always a chance that things can go sour.

In today’s blog post we’ll share three easy ways that you can ruin the trust and rapport that you’ve built with your real estate agent.

#1: Lie or Embellish the Facts

When you ask a real estate agent to represent you in the home buying or selling process they’re going to need accurate information to help you make the best decisions. Lying or embellishing the facts can cause significant issues and should obviously be avoided.

For example, if your agent asks you how much you can afford for your new home, give them an accurate figure based on your mortgage pre-approval, your income and your current financial situation. If you’re selling your home and your real estate agent asks you about the home’s maintenance history, be honest and don’t try to cover anything up.

#2: Cheat on Them with Another Agent

Once you have a real estate agent searching for that perfect new home, they may need to expend quite a bit of effort in order to find exactly what you’re looking for. Imagine how hard they would work if they discovered that you’re having another real estate agent perform the same job, but only one of them will be paid for their work?

Don’t cheat on your real estate agent. If you feel that your agent is doing a poor job or you could find someone better, let them know. It’s better to move on than to have professionals working behind each other’s backs.

#3: Fail to Be Trusting or Respectful

If you fail to show trust and respect for your real estate agent you can rest assured they’re not going to bend over backwards to help you squeeze out that extra discount or get your home sale closed as quickly as possible. Treat your real estate agent as you wish to be treated and they’ll be more than willing to do their job.

Buying or selling, an experienced real estate agent is the best way to ensure that your transaction goes according to plan and that you accomplish your goals. When you’re ready to discuss buying a new home or selling your current one, contact your real estate agent and they’ll be happy to assist. Don’t forget to keep the above points in mind!

Trying to Save on Your Closing Costs? Here Are Three Tips That Can Help Lower Them

Trying to Save on Your Closing Costs? Here Are Three Tips That Can Help Lower ThemWhether you’re about to close on a lovely new house for your growing family or a stylish beachfront condo so you can retire close to the ocean, one thing is certain: you’re going to face a variety of closing costs. Insurance, taxes, financing fees, title fees, attorney fees and other costs will need to be paid, and if you’re a savvy buyer you’ll do everything you can to save on them.

In today’s post we’ll share three quick tips that can help you reduce your closing costs when you buy your next home.

Tip #1: Include Closing Costs in Your Negotiations with the Seller

As closing costs are a part of the real estate transaction they’re an excellent item to include in your negotiations with the seller.

For example, if you consider that closing costs might be 3 or 4 percent of the home’s value you can try to bring the seller’s asking price down to get those costs included. Or, you may be able to entice the seller with the prospect of a quick sale if they are willing to pay your closing costs in order to get you to sign on the dotted line.

Tip #2: Compare All of Your Mortgage Options

If you’re using mortgage financing to cover some of the up-front purchase cost of your home you’ll have other closing costs to pay including lender fees, mortgage insurance and more. Be sure to compare all of your options with your trusted mortgage advisor to ensure that you’re getting the best possible deal and paying the least amount in fees and interest.

You may also be able to save a bit on your closing costs by choosing a “no points” mortgage. In this type of mortgage you’ll end up saving on closing costs but you’ll be left paying a higher interest rate. Spend a bit of time doing the math to determine the best course of action.

Tip #3: Ask About Every Fee You’re Required to Pay

Finally don’t forget that you’re the customer and that you have the right to know about each one of your closing costs and why you’re expected to pay them. Being informed about all of the various items in your transaction will help ensure that you’re not paying something you could have avoided.

There you have it – three excellent tips for reducing your closing costs when you purchase your next home.

You Ask, We Answer: How to Choose Between Expanding Your Current Home and Buying a New One

You Ask, We Answer: How to Choose Between Expanding Your Current Home and Buying a New OneDoes your home feel like it’s starting to burst at the seams? Many homeowners across the country can relate to this feeling having bought a home only to run out of space due to a growing family or for other reasons. Let’s take a quick look at a few questions that will help you to determine whether buying a new home or expanding your current home is the best choice when you’re in need of some extra space.

Why Are You in Need of More Space?

The first question you’ll need to answer is…”why?” Are you running out of space because you’ve decided to start a family and have another child on the way? Or perhaps you’ve decided to start a business out of your home and you’ve outgrown the small room you had set aside as your office? Whatever the case, a major renovation or a move to a new home are both major decisions and ones that shouldn’t be made lightly. Sit down with your family and consider why you need more space and what you would do with a larger home if you had one.

How Much Space Do You Need?

“How much space” is another consideration that you’ll need to make in order to come to the best decision between expansion and buying a new home. If you find that your needs are perfectly suited except for that missing bedroom you may want to undergo a renovation. Conversely, if you find that you could use at least 2 or 3 new rooms and some extra room in the garage, you may want to start shopping for a new home.

Note that expanding your home to add an extra bedroom or to finish the basement will provide a limited amount of additional space – space which may end up feeling constrained later if your family or needs continue to grow. If you’re thinking bigger over the long term, you’ll likely be better served in finding a larger home that has extra room that you can grow into.

Other Factors for Consideration

If you’re thinking about expanding your current home you’ll want to consider how this will impact the other rooms in the house. Are you going to feel the need to renovate every room once that new bedroom is added? If so, is renovating a wise investment or should you simply move on to a newer home?

Living in a more spacious home is a liberating experience that your entire family will enjoy. Contact your local real estate agent today to learn more about buying larger properties and to view available real estate opportunities in your area.

Looking for Luxury? How to Upsize Your Next Home Without Upsizing Your Costs

Looking for Luxury? How to Upsize Your Next Home Without Upsizing Your Costs Size matters when you are buying a new home. Whether you plan to expand your family, need more room for your stuff, or are concerned with resale value, you want to get the most space for your money. Also, if you want to add a feel of luxury to your home, one of the best ways to do it is to create open spaces rather than cramming all your furniture in rooms so tiny you can barely walk around without knocking something over.

Traditionally speaking, the larger a home is, the more it costs. If there are two newly built houses side by side in a subdivision, the bigger one is likely to cost more. However, there are some tricks to finding spacious houses that are affordable.

Choose Emerging Neighborhoods

Houses in this year’s trending neighborhood are at their peak prices. Clever buyers look for neighborhoods that are in the process of being gentrified, buying at the bottom rather than the top of the market, to get more house for their money.

Fix It Up

Houses in perfect condition, that show well, sell for a premium. If you want to get more house for your money, choose something that needs a bit of TLC. A house that has pink walls and orange shag carpet might appear just too ugly to consider when you first view it, but it might just need a few coats of paint and some new carpet to become a spacious dream home.

Do Some Finishing

Unfinished areas such as attics and basements can be finished to create additional living spaces. The basement could become a family room and the attic an extra bedroom or study. An unfinished space can become the extra bathroom you need to make morning more manageable.

Consider an Addition

Contractors can add rooms to a house. If you have a large lot, you can build an extra wing. With a one story ranch house, it may be possible to raise the roof and add a second story.

The more stuff you have, the smaller your home appears. Reduce clutter and invest in smaller condo size furniture to give even the smallest home the appearance of spaciousness. Call an experienced real estate professional if you want to find your spacious luxury home at a bargain-basement price.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 8, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week December 1 2014

Last week’s economic reports related to housing and mortgages were few, but construction spending, the Fed’s Beige Book report, non-farm payrolls and the national unemployment report indicated trends for the end of the year.

Construction Spending Increases

U.S. construction spending rose by 1.10 percent in October according to the Commerce Department. This reading translates to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of $971 billion. Analysts had expected an increase of 0.70 percent based on September’s original reading of -0.40 percent, but September’s reading was revised to -0.10 percent on Tuesday. Private spending on residential projects increased 1.30 percent.

Federal Reserve Beige Book Indicates Economic Improvement, or Not

Oil prices were cited by participants in the Federal Reserve’s survey of regional business leaders; Texas and the Gulf coast areas noted that falling oil prices were a threat to those economies, while other participants said that lower prices at the gas pump were putting more cash in consumers’ pockets. The report noted upward pressure on both minimum wages and higher wages for skilled workers. Wages have remained mostly flat while consumer costs have increased; higher wages can provide more discretionary income for consumers and may build confidence for would-be home buyers that have been waiting for more positive economic trends.

Freddie Mac: Mortgage Rates Down

Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of average mortgage rates brought good news for home buyers and homeowners seeking to refinance their mortgages. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell from 3.97 percent to 3.89 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell to 3.10 percent from last week’s reading of 3.17 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped to 2.94 percent from last week’s reading of 3.01 percent. Average discount points were unchanged for all loan types at 0.50 percent.

Labor Data Mixed, Unemployment Rate Unchanged

Weekly jobless claims beat expectations by 1000 fewer jobless claims with a reading of 297,000 new claims against expectations of 298,000 new claims. The prior week’s reading was higher at 314,000 new jobless claims. The Commerce Department also released Non-Farm Payrolls figures for November with 321,000 jobs added against expectations of 235,000 jobs added and October’s reading of 243,000 jobs added. Holiday hiring and climate related slowdowns are expected to impact year-end labor statistics. Analysts prefer to look at trends occurring over several months to determine labor trends.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on November retail sales and consumer sentiment in addition to Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates survey and the Commerce Departments weekly jobless claims report.