Easy exterior projects that add lasting beauty to your home


(ARA) – In the current economy, homeowners want to improve their home’s exterior while saving time, labor and money. You can enhance your lifestyle by choosing options that extend product performance and add beauty and enjoyment to outdoor living.

The easy patio fix that’s eco-friendly

Adding pavers to any outdoor area can transform cracked slabs or troubled grass areas into virtually instantaneous living space. But most do-it-yourselfers shy away from working with heavy concrete or brick. Andy Vander Woude of AZEK VAST Pavers says you can install a new patio, walkway or driveway with new pavers that install three times faster on a unique grid system over a traditional sub-base. At less than half the weight of concrete, they contain up to 95 percent recycled scrap tires and plastics. “There is no need for wet saws or heavy equipment,” Vander Woude said. “You can also resurface an old patio, deck or flat roof without the sub-base preparation – just assemble the grid and lay the pavers in like a big puzzle.” He added, “It’s a way to create instant living space that respects the planet.”

Add curb appeal for lasting first impressions

You can increase curb appeal with stylish and functional, quality amenities that dress up an entryway, yard, patio, porch or deck. According to the experts at Walpole Woodworkers, known for outdoor furnishings handcrafted in Maine since 1933, consider classic accents such as lantern and mailbox posts, pergolas, arbors, window boxes, deck planters and birdhouses handcrafted from new advanced materials, with long-lasting benefits and low-maintenance. Walpole offers these and many other products handcrafted in modern cellular PVC. This advanced material looks just like natural wood, but won’t rot, split, or warp and will maintain its good looks for years, virtually maintenance free. Call 1-800-343-6948 for a free catalog.
Light up the night

With the emergence of inspired outdoor living spaces and new trends in materials, it only makes sense that homeowners search for a way to enjoy their deck parties well into the night. Deck rail lighting has become extremely popular, with LEDs the preferred way to create ambient lighting. Michael Gori, Director of Product Management at AZEK Building Products, makers of AZEK Deck, said lighted post caps and light strips concealed under the hand rail are in high demand. “The lighted post caps add an elegant touch, while the hand rail lighting casts a downward glow, reducing hot spots and attraction to insects,” he said. “The combination of the two light sources adds a dramatic effect for nighttime entertaining.” Gori adds, “With warm, ambient lighting, there’s no longer a need to head indoors when the sun goes down.”

Know when to paint caulk

Did you ever poke your finger at a caulk bead to see if it’s dry and ruin your nice work? “Caulk needs to dry for about one to two hours, before it can be painted-whether you’re working indoors or out,” says Jason Ringling, marketing director at Red Devil, a company with a 140-year old history in the industry. “Painting too soon can cause sagging and cracking and then the entire job has to be re-done.” He says that there is a new technology called ColorCure sealant that turns from pink to white when it’s ready to paint, so there’s no guesswork. And if the job gets interrupted, you know exactly where you left off. “Formulations are getting smarter to help you work more efficiently,” he adds.

When fixing up or adding beautifying elements to your home exterior, be sure to investigate all the options–from new formulations in caulks and sealants to alternatives to traditional materials that offer easy installation and better performance over time.

Buying a home: Prepare by getting your finances in order

(ARA) – For those considering buying a home, the current real estate market presents some unique opportunities. One of the side effects of the economic roller coaster ride of the past few years is that home prices have gone down and more homes have gone on the market. For buyers, that means more choices and better deals.  However, those same tumultuous years also can also teach buyers a lesson: Make smart buying decisions and be wise with your finances.

Impulsive buying is never a good idea when it comes to a purchase as significant as a home, but it was something of a trend at the height of the mid-2000s. Now, with banks lending far more cautiously, you need to be absolutely certain that your finances are in order – and healthy – to be able to get the best deal on your purchase.

There are a number of steps you can take to get ready to buy a home, and you might need to work on them simultaneously. Consider that you’ll need to start saving, if you haven’t already, but you’ll also need to review your credit score and do what you can to either maintain it or work toward healthier credit. Both of these tasks will help make the home-buying process better for you.

Your credit is an important factor in determining the terms under which you can get a mortgage. Broadly speaking, the better your credit is, the more positively you’ll be viewed by lenders – and that can lead to better interest rates. And because you’ll be paying off your home for years to come, it’s important to get the best rate possible.

Start by checking your credit report. You’re entitled to one free check of your report, from TransUnion and other credit reporting agencies every year.  As much as you need to check your report to find out what shape your credit is in, it’s also essential to review it for inaccuracies or fraudulent activity, both of which can have a negative impact on your score.

If your credit health needs some work, start taking action immediately. Paying bills on time, reducing your overall debt and limiting new credit inquiries can all help to build your credit – but be patient as it can take time for your positive actions to take effect. Nevertheless, the sooner you make the effort, the sooner you’ll see results.

Making a prudent decision about buying a house comes down to an honest assessment of what you can afford. Keep in mind that you might be approved for a loan that’s larger than what is practical for you to afford. While it may be tempting to buy a pricier house, the stress of struggling to make payments could diminish your enjoyment of your new home and even put you at financial risk. One rule of thumb is that most borrowers can afford a home loan that runs about two and a half times their annual salary.

Buying a home is a complex process, but one that is ultimately very rewarding when done right. By organizing your finances well in advance, you’ll help set yourself up for success. For more information about credit and buying a home, visit www.transunion.com.

Damage Control: Pest Control for Foreclosed or Short Sale Properties


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By : Karim El Sheikh    99 or more times read
One minor problem that can become a major one for the savvy Real Estate-Owned (REO) agent or foreclosure investor are pests. Talk about bugged out! Many foreclosed, short sale and distressed homes suffer from pest invasions simply because the critters move in when the humans move out. Without a homeowner to quell the bees or chase away the rodents, foreclosed homes can quickly become dens of insect inequity.

Once you purchase a foreclosed home, it is time to go into pest control mode. Clearing them out is a definite must whether you are moving in or reselling.

Mosquitoes
Any home with large pools of stagnant water can become breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Chemical solutions poured into the water can take care of this, but can have long-term impact on the environment. Draining pools and allowing the larvae to die in the sun is a natural solution. If the property is abuzz with adult mosquitoes, UV attractors or environmentally friendly mosquito traps work wonders.

Bees and Wasps
Gutters, roof overhangs and trees can become grottos for bees and wasps. Smoking them out can potentially be dangerous (and drive them to the neighboring lot). One way to do it is to move the Queen or destroy the hive, forcing the occupants to find a different location.

Termites
Termites are a nuisance especially if the home is primarily made of wood. They can also be a danger to the future homeowner, as they can eat away at the supports or foundations of the home. It is best to call pest control if the termite infestation is large. Another is the find and kill the Queen, causing the rest to scatter.

Fleas, ticks and other biting nuisances
If the former homeowners owned pets, the house may still have dormant fleas running around, waiting for their next victims. Flea soap or powder mixed with cleaning water can help kill these dormant eggs. Overgrown yards can breed ticks and other biting insects.

Spiders
Spiders inside the home are actually a good thing, since they keep smaller insects at bay. However, spider webs and eggs can be very unsightly and their presence can scare away potential buyers.

Rodents
Abandoned homes make attractive nests for different types of rodents, not just the rat. You may find yourself knee deep in mice and rats and in this case, professional help may be needed. Humane traps or poisons can also be used.

Strays
Before entering a home, make sure that there are no stray animals that have made the house into a home. They may consider the house their territory and attack on site. Stray animals can also carry diseases. Call in the nearest Animal Control shelter if you happen to come across Fido or Tabby making a home in what was once a living room.

Large infestations definitely need to be controlled. Call in a pest control agency before it gets too out of hand or before the home gets too damaged to be livable. One thing to keep in mind is that clearing out infestations does take time.

Preforeclosure.com is an investors secret hangout. Research and be the first to get your hands on a home under going the foreclosure process while it is in preforeclosure.

Rent or Own? The Pros of Each

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By : Andy Asbury    99 or more times read
For some people, owning a home is an integral part of achieving the American Dream. But for others, and perhaps a growing number of people, home ownership is not in the cards. And oftentimes, that is a calculated choice people make. The reality today is that some people simply prefer to rent a home instead of own one. Of course, there are upsides to both renting and owning.

Owning a home: Pros
The home is yours. Want to change the paint color? Go ahead. Refinish the floors? You can do that, too. Build equity as you make monthly mortgage payments? Check. People who own their condo, loft or single-family home have flexibility to make the changes they want, provided they are not outside the bounds of city ordinances (in the case of single-family homes) or association co-op rules (in the case of condos and lofts).

And in some markets, including Minneapolis, owning a home actually makes more economic sense. According to a recent Wall Street Journal survey (based on data from Zillow, Inc.), 12 of 27 metro areas favor owning a home rather than renting one. In Minneapolis, for example, the average monthly mortgage payment for homeowners is $776, compared to the average monthly rent payment of $953.

Homeowners also enjoy a sense of security. They are not subject to landlords who do not want to extend a lease, or who are not prompt in dealing with issues that arise. Additionally, homeowners essentially invest in themselves each time they make a mortgage payment or complete a home-improvement project.

Renting a home: Pros
You are not the owner. That means your landlord, not you, likely is responsible for major repairs. Furnace goes out? Call the landlord. Ditto if, for example, the roof develops a leak. For that reason, people who rent can take comfort in knowing exactly how much of their money goes into their home each month or year.

Renters also enjoy flexibility. Since leases generally last for fixed periods of time, renters can live in one spot for a year or two, and then try somewhere else. Or maybe you have a job that keeps you on the move. In that case, renting is a good choice because you are not on the hook for selling a home before you can move.

Renting also tends to be less labor-intensive than owning. Renters often can decorate a home to line up with their personal tastes, but they generally do not need to worry about things like landscaping, mowing the grass in the summer, or removing snow in the winter. As a result, renters have more time for the activities they enjoy.

Author and Broker, Andy Asbury, studies Minneapolis condos, closely. His team of Urban Agents at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Area Leaders are focused on the latest trends in buildings like the Carlyle in downtown.

Taking a Closer Look at Advantages of Foreclosures

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By : Jacquelyn Marks    99 or more times read

Many people would look at the concept of foreclosures as something so negative. However, what they do not realize is that there are several advantages that people would find in foreclosures than just losing homes, both for the property sellers and buyers.

It is a known fact that when a property has been seized by the state, the bank or a certain real estate agency because the owners were no longer capable of producing payments for the property. It can also be used to settle unpaid debts and loans such as when the owners decided to file for bankruptcy. In addition, because of all these, people tend to over look the positive things that they can actually get out of foreclosed homes and properties.

    • Because of the increase for homes in the United States, the number of possible homes for sale has also increased. This means that potential homebuyers will also have more opportunities to find the houses that they need.
    • Good quality homes will be up for grabs. If you will be going through the foreclosure listings, you will find that there are some houses up for sale, which have been repaired and repainted. The reason behind this is to eliminate the competition through presenting homes that are ready for occupancy. Of course, who would not like the idea of doing fewer repairs on a pre-owned home? Moreover, because sellers would like to sell their properties immediately, they will also be amenable to do some negotiations, and eventually settle for low and acceptable prices.
    • Low-priced homes are indeed an advantage. Since there are many homes that are now available in the real estate market, the prices of foreclosed homes have decreased by at least 35 percent. This is perfect for buyers who are leaning toward buying very affordable properties. The houses will then be sold easily, thus giving the sellers an equal amount of opportunity to pay for all their loans or debts that caused them to give up their homes.
    • Investors have higher chances of acquiring more assets. The influx in the rate of foreclosed homes in the market caused a lot of businesspersons, investors and individuals to turn their views on buying affordable properties as forms of investments. Because who knows, the real estate industry might pick up in a few months or years, and these assets can definitely be worth much more as soon as the market comes back to life.
    • Seeing many foreclosed homes being bought one after the other, the hopes if p0ssibly helping the economy recover suddenly appears to be at arms’ reach. This gives people a more positive outlook on how they can pull this industry back on its feet.

Knowing all these advantages can definitely help convince more and more people about grabbing the good opportunities that foreclosed homes offer. This list can also guide potential buyers and sellers when it comes to how they should sell or buy properties.

Dealing with Foreclosures: Seeking Legal Help

It is not at all surprising that most people fear that giving their homes up for foreclosure would mean that they would be unable to recover and lose whatever is left in their possessions. Although part of it may be true, it doesn’t mean that there’s no way to get through all these without lenders and banks draining them dry of cash and other properties.

Facing foreclosure may mean that you will be giving up the home that you have always wanted for various reasons: You may either be unable to pay for the remaining mortgage payments or settle your remaining debts and other loans. And even after you have surrendered your property, there would still be a possibility that your lenders will still file a case against you because the value of your home is not sufficient enough to complete all your dues.

Bad as this situation may seem, there are in fact positive ways to deal with all these legal concerns. First, you can talk to your lenders to see if your debts can be waived, at least what’s left of them. Second, you have to look for a reliable real estate or bankruptcy lawyer to help you out. More often than not, your lawyer would advise you to file for either a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 11 type of bankruptcy, for you to be discharged off your debts. Now, the kind of bankruptcy you can file will depend on your financial situation.

File a Chapter 7 if you are unemployed and if you have no other means of earning enough money to pay for your debts. Once proven in court, your possessions will be put up for sale, which can be done by a court-appointed trustee. On the other hand, if you have a business and you feel that your business is about to go under, file for a Chapter 11 to help you avoid having your properties included in the foreclosure listings. What you also need to keep in mind is the fact that bankruptcy can reflect on your credit standing for a long as 10 years. Therefore, you need to make sure that this is what you really want to do, otherwise, it would be best to look for another way to fix your foreclosure issues.

There is another way to fight foreclosure that does not leave a bad mark on your credit scores. Moreover, this can be done if you will consider selling your property in advance. You may be unable to hold on to your home, but you can surely hold on to the opportunity to be debt free. The money that you get out of the sale of your home can be used to pay off your existing debts and if you have some money left, then you will have a better opportunity to start fresh and to start acquiring new properties for you and your family.

Dealing with foreclosure can also be avoided through preparation. Never let the opportunity of learning everything about how to safeguard your property pass, and all you need to do is to talk to a real estate expert who you can trust for the “do’s and don’ts” in acquiring properties, as well as with a legal representative to discuss the legalities of bankruptcy, foreclosure and acquisition of property.

ForeclosureFreeSearch.com is the leading resource provider for onlineforeclosure listings.

Prepare For The Coming Housing Collapse

The Money Pros are standing by to take your questions.

Q. Can I do a short sale even if I am not at risk of foreclosure?

Marcus Rutkowski

A. Yes. A short sale proceeds just like any other home sale, with one exception: the seller needs approval from the bank holding the mortgage to complete the transaction.

Sellers who are underwater, because they owe more to the bank than their house is worth, or simply won’t net enough from the sale to pay off all the closing expenses, can request that their bank take less than the amount owed.

It is up to the bank to make the ultimate decision to agree on the sale and allow the deal to close.

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