How Long Does It Take to Build Credit History From Scratch?

How long does it take to build credit history? If you ever plan to buy a house, establishing a track record of past payments is essential, because it proves to mortgage lenders that you’ve paid people back (which means they’ll be more apt to loan you money for a home).

Still, if you have no credit history—because you’re young or just never bothered—how long does it take to build it from scratch?

Here’s the straight dope: Done right, it can take as little as six months. Done wrong? It can take several years. So if you’re in a rush to establish credit to buy a home, you’ll want to know the right way to go about it! Heed this advice to learn what to do.

How long does it take to build credit?

At a minimum, you need to open at least one credit card in your name. From there, you just need to make a purchase using the card, and then make a payment. Once you’ve made your payment, your creditor will report your payment to one or more of the major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian).

“Typically, it takes at least three to six months of activity before a credit score can be calculated,” says Tracy East, director of communication at Consumer Education Services in Raleigh, NC.

Once you’ve established credit, you still have some work to do. Credit histories are scored based on performance, much like the grades you got in school. Healthy credit behavior—like on-time payments and staying well below your credit limit—lead to a higher credit score.

What’s more, there are two types of scores: VantageScores and FICOscores. Some mortgage lenders may look at a VantageScore, but FHA lenders are required to use FICO scores.

“After opening their first credit account and beginning to make timely payments, it will take at least three months for the person to generate a VantageScore, and six months to have enough information to create a FICO score,” says Martin Lynch, compliance manager and director of education at Cambridge Credit Counseling of Agawam, MA.

And the longer you demonstrate good credit behavior, the higher your score can climb from there. In other words, a couple of on-time payments is nice, but years and years of on-time payments is far more impressive, and reflected in your score accordingly. In fact, the length of your credit history can count for as much as 15% of your credit score.

What credit score do you need to get a mortgage?

Your initial credit score when building credit will typically be in the 660s, which is considered on the low end of “fair” (fair scores range from 650 to 699). It could be just enough to buy a house with some lenders, but not all, because lenders vary regarding the minimum credit score they will accept.

You should also know that while a “fair” score may get you a mortgage, it won’t qualify you for the best mortgage—in terms of interest rates and other deals. To get better mortgage rates, you will need a good score (700 to 759) or an excellent score (760 or higher). Unfortunately, achieving these scores will take (you guessed it) more time.

How to speed up the credit-building process

To establish a payment history, use your card reasonably. Make payments on time (or early, if possible). Setting up automatic payments can help. East recommends keeping your balance below 30% of your credit limit and, ideally, paying it off in full each month. These simple steps will eventually push your score from fair to good to excellent, allowing you to get the best rates for your mortgage.

Here are some other ways to speed up the credit-building process and ensure your credit history and score get off to a good start.

  • Become an authorized user on someone elses account. This can be a parent, friend, or relative who has had the account for at least a few years and has a good payment history. You dont need to use the account or even have a card. Once youre added as an authorized user and that fact is reported to the credit bureaus, it will instantly affect your credit and may generate a score if you dont already have one or, at least, give it a boost.
  • Get a secured credit card or loan. If youre having trouble qualifying for a traditional credit card, try for a secured credit card, which is “secured” by a deposit. This means that if you default or stop paying, your deposit will be used to pay off the account. This lowers the risk involved for the lender, which makes it more likely to offer you credit even if you dont have an established credit history.

Also know that when it comes to mortgages, your credit score is just one piece of a larger puzzle. According to Lynch, your lender will also look at your employment history, how long you’ve lived at your current residence, and your credit references.

Article by Melinda Sineriz

Cleaning Your House for Guests: A Checklist

Countdown to a perfectly clean guest-ready home no matter how much — or little — time you have.

It feels great to have a clean, organized, well-functioning home when you’ve got guests coming. Especially around the holidays. It’s like your gift to you.

Here’s how to get that satisfying feeling — no matter how much time you have. Just choose your starting point on this checklist:

Three (or More) Weeks to Go

Think big picture. Get anything that requires a pro or installation out of the way now. No one wants calamity to strike when guests are pulling into the driveway.

  • Get your HVAC maintained if it’s overdue.
  • If you have a self-cleaning oven, clean it now. An oven is most likely to break down during the cleaning cycle, so don’t save this task for last.
  • Replace any appliance on its last legs. You don’t want your hot water to go out or fridge on the fritz with a houseful of guests.
  • Steam-clean upholstery. (Or hire a pro. It’s a big job)
  • Hire a handyman for those repairs you’ve been putting off.
  • Check outdoor lighting. Replace old bulbs and call an electrician to address any bigger issues.

Two Weeks to Go

It’s not panic time yet. Focus on decluttering and a few deep-cleaning tasks now, and you’ll have a more manageable to-do list when the clock really starts ticking down.

  • Do a deep declutter. It’ll make things easier to keep clean.
  • Dust ceiling fans, light fixtures, and high-up shelves.
  • Wipe down baseboards.
  • Clean out and organize the fridge.
  • Wash windows to make the entire house feel brighter and cleaner.
  • Toss washable shower curtains and drapes in the washing machine and re-hang. Easy.

One Week to Go

It’s strategic cleaning time. Here’s what to tackle now — things your family won’t easily undo before your guests arrive.

  • Declutter again.
  • Vacuum and dust guest rooms. If they’re low-traffic, the cleanliness should hold with just a quick wipe-down right before they arrive.
  • Wipe down walls.
  • Wipe down kitchen and dining room chairs and tables, including the legs. You’d be surprised how grimy they get.
  • Deep clean the entryway — and make room for your guests’ stuff.

72 Hours to Go

The final cleaning stretch is on the horizon.

  • Do another declutter.
  • In the kitchen, toss stove burners, drip pans, and knobs into the dishwasher for an easy deep clean.
  • Wash kitchen cabinet fronts.
  • Scrub the kitchen floor.
  • Clean and shine appliances.

48 Hours to Go

Now it’s time to get serious.

  • Clean and sanitize garbage cans to banish mystery smells.
  • Wipe down doorknobs, faceplates, and light switches. They’re germ magnets.
  • Clean the front door.
  • Deep clean the bathroom your guests will use, and close it off if possible.
  • Wash guest towels and linens.

24 Hours to Go

Your guests’ bags are packed. Time for final touches.

  • Do a final declutter – by now it shouldn’t take more than five minutes.
  • Give one final wipe-down to toilets, tubs, and bathroom sinks.
  • And another final wipe-down in the kitchen.
  • Do all the floors: mop, vacuum, sweep, etc.
  • Make guest beds and set out clean towels.
  • Plug in nightlights in guest baths.
  • Put out guest toiletries so they’re easy to find.
  • Add a coffee or tea station in the guest room or kitchen.
  • Get your favorite smell going, whether it’s a scented candle, spices in water on the stove, or essential oils.
  • Use rubber gloves to wipe off pet hair and dust from furniture. It works.
  • Do the full red carpet: Sweep or shovel porch, steps, and outdoor walkways.
Article by ANNE MILLER

11 “Wow!” Ways to Binge-Organize Your Home in 1 Hour

Because you don’t have time for a Marie Kondo-style overhaul.

When you’ve gotta get your house organized — and fast! — you don’t want to lay hands on everything you own, or ask if those objects have brought you joy. You just want to clear clutter with a minimum of fuss and muss.

Here’s how.

#1 Put Jewelry in Ice Cube Trays

Stack a couple in a vanity drawer for a super cheap solution to your tangled heap of earrings and necklaces.

You can get a pack of three for less than your daily coffee fix (less than $3).

Not only will your bling be tidy, you’ll also be prepared if your icemaker dies.

#2 Hang Scarves With Shower Curtain Rings

Stop neckwear chaos in your closet with a clothes hanger and a pack of cheap shower curtain rings. Pull your scarves out of the drawer (or corner) they’re stuffed in, and string them on the rings.

Twelve plastic ones cost $4 to $8. For a sleeker look, go with metal rings. Ooo. Fancy.

#3 Suspend Shower Supplies From a Tension Rod

They’re good for more than shower curtains.

Use shower curtain rings to hang baskets for small stuff like razors or soap, and shower clip rings for larger items. Just make sure the rod is sturdy enough to hold the weight of the bottles.

#4 Tame the Freezer With Magazine Organizers

Stop those pell-mell piles of frozen food from tumbling out on the kitchen floor.

Pick up some magazine organizers from an office supply store, and put your pizzas, popsicles, and Eggos in them.

Use plastic ones that can stand up to leaking cartons of Ben and Jerry’s and other gooey messes.

#5 Store Bobby Pins on a Magnetic Strip

Corral your hair pins by sticking a magnetic strip inside your vanity drawer and putting your pins on it.

A roll of 1-inch-wide, adhesive-backed magnet tape sells for about $7. You can also store barrettes and small tweezers this way.

#6 Slip a CD Holder Into a Cabinet to Organize Plastic Lids

Arrange them from smallest to largest so you can grab the one you need, fast. If you can’t find a CD rack (which is possible because, iTunes), use a desktop letter organizer.

#7 Tame Cords and Cables With Toilet Paper Rolls

How simple is this? Coil cable, put it into the roll, and write the type of cable on the roll.

Then you can decorate with washi tape so it looks less toilet paper roll-y, and you’ve escaped cord chaos. The cost of this hack is zero, because you’re buying toilet paper anyway.

#8 Hang Measuring Cups, Spoons Inside a Cabinet Door

Get your measuring utensils out of the drawer and at your fingertips.

Coat the door with chalkboard paint so you can label them by size and scribble a handy-dandy measuring equivalent chart. Be sure your measuring utensils have holes in the handles so you can hang them.

#9 Stash Your Styling Tools in a Wire Basket

Put it on the side of your vanity to keep your hair appliances and their cords contained and at the ready.

Use hooks with suction cups so you won’t damage your cabinet with nails or adhesive.

And be sure to use a metal holder so you can put your flat iron back while it’s cooling. Because plastic melts.

#10 Hang Shower Supplies With Suction Cup Hooks and Hair Bands

Round up that sloppy gaggle of bottles and razors in your shower with this cheap-as-dirt-storage hack.

Be sure to get hooks rated to hold at least a pound so you can hang a full-sized bottle of shampoo.

#11 Whip a Drawer Into Shape With an Egg Carton

Use of all your eggs to make omelets, then fill the empty carton with the contents of your junk drawer.

The carton’s biodegradable, so you won’t be adding to the planet’s glut of plastic. A dozen eggs is $2 to $4, and the carton’s free.

If you’re a vegan with messy drawers, go with tip No. 1 above.

Article by LEANNE POTTS

Garlic Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

These crispy bacon, garlic and balsamic roasted brussels sprouts are packed with flavor and make the perfect side dish for anytime!  Whole30 and paleo friendly, plus kid approved!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb brussels sprouts halved (or quartered for larger ones)
  • 4-6 slices nitrate free bacon sugar free for whole30
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Spread brussels sprouts in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Cut bacon into pieces, then sprinkle all over Brussels sprouts.
  2. Roast in the preheated oven for 15 mins, then stir and return to single layer and continue to roast another 5-10 mins until bacon is crisp. Drizzle all over with vinegar and sprinkle with the garlic.
  3. Continue to roast another 5-7 mins or until browned and crispy. Serve as a side dish anytime! Enjoy!

‘The Best Mortgage Advice I’ve Heard, Ever’

When it comes to mortgages, there’s an avalanche of advice out there—some good, some bad, and some that’s flat-out great. You know, the type of wisdom that makes you so grateful you heard it, it sticks with you and gets passed along to all who care to hear it.

With the hopes of delivering only these golden nuggets of wisdom, we asked homeowners to tell us the very best mortgage advice they’ve been lucky enough to learn. You won’t be sorry you read this!

Keep your monthly mortgage payment under one paycheck

“This might seem pretty simple, but I was once told not to freak out so much about the total cost of the mortgage, but to make sure that when all is said and done, I could handle most if not all of the monthly payment in one paycheck. That has worked out really well for me and my husband, especially because we work in media, which is unstable. But with a low mortgage payment, we know that whatever happens, we can handle it.” – Starrene Rocque, Brooklyn, NY

Shop around for the best interest rate

“My brother told me to shop for the best interest rate, even if it means that I had to get quotes from more than five lenders or brokers. At first I resisted, not only due to the hassle, but because I didn’t want those companies individually pulling my credit report, since I’d heard this type of ‘hard’ credit inquiry would drag down my score. He told me that a credit pull for mortgage purposes within a set period of time only counted as one hard credit inquiry. His suggestion helped me get the interest I needed and will save me a lot of money in the long run.” – Allan Liwanag, Lexington Park, MD

Multiple quotes can help with more than just interest rates

“When I first started shopping for homes, my real estate agent advised me to start the application process with more than one lender by filling out online financial forms for my top three. Though I was initially hesitant because of the extra time it would take to fill out the paperwork, doing so set me up for multiple interest rate quote estimates. Plus, the lenders knew I was serious and [were] in competition for my business, so they were especially prompt and attentive in answering my questions and returning my calls. The interest rates I qualified for were all comparable, so I ended up going with the lender that was the best communicator, which is worth its weight in gold when getting a mortgage.” – Rebecca Graham, Provo, UT .

Lock in your interest rate for as long as possible

“I bought my first home in 2016, a bankruptcy sale. Even though the listing agent and the attorney both told me that the escrow would last no more than 60 days, my agent recommended that I lock in my mortgage interest rate for the longest time possible, 90 days. It is a good thing I did, because my escrow ended up taking five months! Since I locked in the rate for the longest time allowed, the bank accommodated my situation and I didn’t lose my great rate.” – Goldie Winge, Los Angeles, CA

An ARM is a risk—even if you think you’ll move soon

“In 2007, when purchasing my first property, I anticipated owning the house for three to five years max. This led many mortgage brokers to say I should get an adjustable-rate mortgage or, ARM, since they had lower interest rates than fixed-rate loans, and besides, I’d be long gone before the interest rate on my ARM ballooned. I’m so glad I stuck to my guns about not wanting an ARM, no matter how enticing the low interest rate. Although I’d planned to move, the economy and life caused me to adjust my original plan and stay put in the house much longer than I thought.” – Nerissa Marbury, Katy, TX

Make extra mortgage payments whenever possible

“Although you only have to pay a certain amount for your mortgage each month, pay extra when you can. You would be shocked at what even one or two extra payments per year can do over the length of a loan.” – Dave August, Point of Rocks, MD

Get a mortgage that allows you to save for retirement, too

“The best advice I’ve gotten was to get a 30-year fixed-rate loan, even though I could have afforded the higher payments of a 15-year loan. Why? My lower payments bought me a ton of flexibility. I’ve been investing the difference, and it’s been quite rewarding. I figure that if I invested that extra $1,000 each month in stocks that earned 7 percentage points over the 3.5% interest on my loan—I’d be about $100,000 ahead over the seven-year period that I’ve held the loan.” – Kathy Kristof, Los Angeles. CA

Article by Melinda Sineriz

In Observance of Veterans Day

Ever wonder why Veterans day is on the 11th and does not change? World War I ended on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour.

Yesterday I saw a man selling poppies stop a lady and asked if he could re-position her poppy. While doing so he told the lady she should wear the poppy on their right side; the red represents the blood of all those who gave their lives, the black represents the mourning of those who didn’t have their loved ones return home, and the green leaf represents the grass and crops growing and future prosperity after the war destroyed so much.

The leaf should be positioned at 11 o’clock to represent the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the time that World War I formally ended. He was worried that younger generations wouldn’t understand this and his generation wouldn’t be around much longer to teach them. We must remember those from our current wars too!

For those that do not know, the eleventh day of the eleventh month is Veterans Day! Please pass this knowledge on to those who don’t know the meaning and who care enough to know.

Winter Safety Tips for Your Dog in Snow

There’s nothing quite like watching a dog experience snow for the first time. What the heck is all this white stuff? Must dig in and try to gobble it up! But before letting your dog go wild in the snow, make sure you’re taking these safety precautions provided by one of our expert veterinarians.

 

1. GET YOUR DOG USED TO THE SNOW GRADUALLY

“The key is acclimation,” says Ruth Ann Lobos, veterinarian and Purina’s Senior Manager of Training. “If they seem fine and aren’t shivering or trying to get in, it’s perfectly fine for them to stay outside for longer periods as long as they’re building up to it.” Start them out with small stints outside so their coats and paws will have time to adjust.

 

2. REMEMBER THAT COLDNESS DEPENDS ON THE DOG

Puppies will have a harder time regulating their body temperatures outside, and senior dogs can have issues like diabetes or an altered metabolism that can make it harder for them to adjust. Smaller dogs with thinner coats will shiver more than dogs bred to be outside in the cold.

3. PREP YOUR DOG!

If you notice your dog tends to be cold, stock up on sweaters, coats or dog booties. Some dogs will even get cold indoors! Avoid shaving your dog in the winter and start wiping off your dog’s paws when he comes inside after being outside, especially if he has long hair that will keep the pads of his paws wet.

 

4. USE YOUR INTUITION

If it’s literally colder than Mars outside (which actually happened in the Midwest last year), limit your dog’s time outside. If a cold wind is penetrating your ski jacket, it’s probably too cold for a dog to play outside for an extended period of time too. And watch the dog for signs of discomfort. Holding up a paw because it’s frozen means it’s time to come in. “If it’s Minnesota cold, 17 and 20 degrees below, you wouldn’t want to stay outside more than 15 or 20 minutes with these guys,” Lobos says.

 

5. MAKE POTTY TIME QUICKER AND EASIER

Try shoveling a patch of grass for your dog to run to during potty time. If they opt to go on the carpet instead, try taking them outside for two or three-minute jaunts and give them a treat every time they come in, just like when you were potty training. This will help incentivize them to learn a new routine. If your regular area is too cold, try a new area with less snow or overhead protection from falling rain or snow.

 

6. WATCH OUT FOR ROCK SALT AND ANTIFREEZE

Rock salt is going to be everywhere, so try and keep your dog from eating it. It isn’t toxic, but it can upset their stomachs. It may also rub on the pads of their paws to cause irritation. Dog-safe rock salt might be a great option for your home.

Be extra vigilant about keeping your dog away from antifreeze. It tastes sweet, but is extremely toxic. Look out for blue or green-colored substances on driveways, sidewalks and car surfaces.

 

7. LEARN HOW TO WARM UP YOUR DOG

If your dog seems too cold, try covering them in a towel or blanket. You can also use a blow dryer at the low setting (too high could burn the dog) to warm them up. Avoid heating pads, which could also cause burns, although warming some rice in a sock in the microwave is an excellent and dog-safe alternative. Put it against your wrist first to make sure it’s not too hot.

A dog’s normal body temperature should range from 99.5-102.5 degrees. (To get your dog’s temperature, you’ll need to use a rectal thermometer.)

 

8. TREAT CRACKED PADS

Try a moisturizer originally made for cow udders to soothe your dog’s paws. After applying anything to his feet, keep him busy with a puzzle feeder or treat so that he won’t lick it right off. You can try preventing this type of damage by putting your dog in booties or by cleaning off the pads of his feet every time he comes inside.

 

9. GIVE YOUR DOG PLENTY OF EXERCISE

It can be hard to get moving with your dog on a cold day, but letting your dog stay idle could lead to destructive or nervous behaviors due to all that pent-up energy. Once your dog is acclimated and prepared for the cold, it’s ok to continue walks and backyard play. You can even build a little agility course in your backyard with piles of snow!

If your area is just too cold, try finding an indoor gym for dogs. Puzzle feeders are also a great option for keeping your dog busy on a long, cold winter day.

Best of luck enjoying the winter snow with the dog you love!

16 Incredibly Useful Rules for an Organized Home

Homes don’t clean themselves. But these easy-peasy rules (wake and make!) will make you feel like they do.

Here’s the thing you may have noticed about houses: They don’t clean themselves.

Which is unfortunate, because if houses cleaned themselves you could spend less time cleaning yours, and more time doing something more fun, like watching “The Golden Girls,” because dang, that’s actually a great show.

A few simple daily habits could make it seem like you’ve got a self-cleaning house.

Rules like …

#1 Dedicate 20 Minutes a Day Every Day

You don’t need to set aside 20 hours one day to get things in order. You only need 20 minutes every day.

Focus on tackling clutter in just one room. You might only pare down a single drawer or shelf, but “it will make you feel accomplished at the end of the day, and at the end of a week, you will see how much you can declutter,” says professional organizer Helena Alkhas.

#2 Follow a “One-Minute” Rule

Small tasks add up quickly when you’re saving them to do all at once. So if it takes less than a minute to complete, do it immediately.

Put that cup in the dishwasher rather than the sink.

Break down that Amazon box for recycling right after you unbox your goodie.

(Hot tip: Want a reminder of how much you can get done in a minute? Next time your coffee goes cold, pop it in the microwave for a minute, and just stand there. For the whole minute. It’s kind of a long time.)

#3 Start a Load of Laundry Before Work

If you have a full load in the hamper, toss it in while you’re getting ready for work. By the time you leave, it will be ready for the dryer.

When you get home, you’ll already feel ahead of schedule with just a little fluffing and folding to do. Just make sure you’ve properly maintained your dryer to reduce the risk of a fire.

#4 Always Leave a Room With Something in Hand

Whatever room you’re in, chances are there’s a toy, cup, blanket or T-shirt that needs to be delivered back to another room.

Oh hey, conveniently, you’re always walking into other rooms. Why not pickup a hitchhiker or two?

Every time you leave a room, take a quick scan for anything that belongs where you’re going, and you’ll start habitually keeping clutter under control.

#5 Deal With Your Mail Every Time You Bring It In

With so much of your important mail going straight to your inbox, sometimes you’ve got days of fliers and junk mail to wade through every time you make it to the USPS mailbox.

To banish paper clutter from your home — and make sure you catch anything actually worth reading — immediately sort through your mail, recycling the nonsense and putting the keepers in an assigned spot.

#6 Scan and Trash Weekly

You don’t really have to choose between forgetting what time the reception starts and stumbling over your cousin’s wedding invite for three months.

Thanks to this fancy technology stuff, you can clear out all receipts, invitations, insurance documents, and other important paperwork.

Take a few minutes every weekend to scan and save everything, then toss it all it the recycling. With smartphone apps like Genius Scan, you always have the tools in the palm of your hand.

#7 Tidy Up During Downtime

In the five minutes it takes to nuke your lunch, you can unload and possibly reload the dishwasher, or wipe off the countertops and appliances. You’ll be surprised how much order you can restore to your home during these normally wasted waiting-on-something moments.

#8 Make Your Bed as Soon as You Get Up

There’s a reason the Marines start the day with this simple task — also known as “wake and make.”

According to retired Admiral William H. McRaven, author of “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life … and Maybe the World,” “It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.”

#9 Do Chores in the Same Order

Whether you’re cleaning on a Saturday or Wednesday, your mind (and body) will move more quickly from vacuuming to mopping to dusting if you check chores off in the same order — making it easier to keep your home tidy and clean.

Headphones and a throwback playlist are a recommended, but not required, part of the routine.

#10 Spot-Clean Bathrooms Nightly

Just as clutter attracts clutter, bathroom funk quickly multiplies.

Stock every bathroom with Lysol wipes and you can quickly and easily clean the countertop and toilet when you brush your teeth or help the kids get ready for bed, Alkhas says.

While wiping, you’ll naturally put away the floss, hair ties, and other clutter in your path.

#11 Stop Dirt and Clutter at the Door

Establish a house rule that shoes, bags, jackets, and “pocket items” — your keys, sunglasses, wallet, and phone — are stowed in a drop zone at the door.

Make this easy to enforce by assigning one hook and open shelf for every member of the family — double that for those with lots of extracurriculars, Alkhas says.

#12 Clean Out the Fridge Weekly

Don’t let moldy leftovers take over shelf space and your mind.

The night before your garbage day, “wipe off the shelves and clean out anything that has no chance of being eaten,” Alkhas says. You’ll get a clearer view of your food options and open up space for ingredients needed in the coming week.

#13 Empty the Dishwasher Every Morning

The conquest of a homemade dinner (OK, a “home-prepared” dinner, most days) feels short-lived when you’re left with a mountain of dishes and no place to put them.

Take a couple minutes every morning to empty the dishwasher and you’ll stay ahead of the game.

#14 Conduct a Nightly Tidy-Up

Every night, take a laundry basket on a tour of your house and pick up anything that’s out of place. “You don’t have to put it away now. If you want, plan to do it on Saturday and it won’t take much time at all,” Alkhas says.

If there are more than two people in your household, separate the day’s clutter into assigned baskets for each family member to put away daily or weekly.

With this routine, Alkas adds, “you’ll wake up to a living room that’s decluttered and a kitchen that is tidy, and you can start your day fresh.”

#15 Follow a Clean-Out Schedule for Your Storage Areas

Just because it’s hidden behind a cupboard door doesn’t mean it’s exempt from clutter status.

Establish a schedule, perhaps every month, to rid a specific storage space of its dead weight — like expired food in the pantry, excess gadgets in a kitchen drawer, or the cupboard holding the gazillion ragged dishtowels you’ve had since your tiny college studio apartment. (It’s time to let those go.)

#16 Keep Everyone Involved

When one person leaves a dish in the sink, it paves a slippery slope for others to follow suit.

So have a “The Brady Bunch”-style family meeting to make sure everyone understands their responsibilities and chores for maintaining order in the home. Serve brownies. They’ll show up.

Article by AMY HOWELL HIRT

How to Buy a House for $10,000 Upfront (or Less!)

Pssst … wanna know how to buy a house for just $10,000 upfront, max? No, this isn’t a scam, or a ploy to lure you into purchasing some rickety shack in the middle of nowhere. We’re talking about a nice house in a nice neighborhood—for no more than a hundred Benjamins.

We get why you’re skeptical, given the high price of homes today. According to realtor.com data, America’s median home price rose 7% last year to $295,000. And since many assume a 20% down payment is required to buy a home, that would amount to you coughing up $59,000 before you ever move in! No wonder many of us expect to spend years scrimping and saving to be able to make our home-buying dreams come true.

But here’s a reality check: The upfront costs of buying a home have a lot more wiggle room than you might think.

It largely comes down to trimming two variables: your down payment and closing costs. Here’s the scoop on how to whittle these down to size so all you need is $10,000—or even less—to buy a home of your own.

How to buy a home for $10,000: Tips to trim your down payment

Here’s the secret, in a nutshell: Yes, a 20% down payment is traditionally recommended for conventional loans since it allows you to avoid paying an extra monthly fee called private mortgage insurance (PMI). But that doesn’t mean 20% is necessary.

As such, the first key to buying a home for $10,000 or less is to take out a mortgage that requires little money down, or no down payment at all. There are four options available.

Veterans Affairs loans

If you or your spouse serve or served in the military, you may qualify for a Veterans Affairs (VA) loan. Under this program, the VA guarantees the loan, reducing the risk to the lender. You can finance up to 100% of the house’s cost, so you won’t have to come up with any money for a down payment. Just keep in mind that there are minimum requirements for your income and credit score that vary by lender, so it’s a good idea to shop around for a VA loan to ensure you get the best deal.

There are some fees associated with VA loans, but they can be rolled into the total loan amount that you make payments toward monthly.

According to Jennifer Beeston, vice president of mortgage lending with Rate.com, there are many myths about VA loans that cause people to avoid them.

“Many veterans do not use their VA loans because they hear they are too difficult,” she said. “But honestly, VA loans are very easy and offer a tremendous benefit to the borrower.”

USDA loans

The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers loans to Americans with low to moderate incomes who want to buy a home in a rural area. Like with VA loans, you can borrow up to 100% of the home’s cost, eliminating the need for a down payment. USDA loans do have some fees, but you can roll them into the mortgage.

“USDA loans are fantastic loans that many people do not know about, but should,” Beeston says.

You’ll need to pay ongoing fees for mortgage insurance, he notes, but it’s less than an FHA or conventional mortgage.

FHA loans

If you don’t qualify for VA or USDA loans, another option to consider is a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan. With an FHA loan, you still have to come up with a down payment, but it’s only 3.5% of the home’s price.

For the median $295,000 home, that would mean a down payment of $10,325. On a $150,000 home, you’d only have to put down $5,250. Depending on where you live, that could be enough to buy an excellent house in a great area.

The one downside? Because you’re making a small down payment, you will need to pay mortgage insurance (PMI). But you can roll that cost into your total mortgage.

Credit union loans

Some credit unions offer mortgages that require only a small down payment, or no payment at all. It’s wise to check out local credit unions in your area to see what kind of home loans they can offer you.

How to lower your home closing costs

Even if you get a home loan that covers 100% of the home’s cost, you typically need to come up with thousands of dollars to cover closing costs. Those are the fees paid to third parties who facilitate the sale of a home. They include the loan origination fee, credit report fee, title search fee, and more.

While closing costs vary widely, they typically total 2% to 7% of the home’s purchase price. So on a $295,000 home, your closing costs would amount to about $5,900 to $20,650.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to raise that money yourself. There are two other ways to cover closing costs.

Ask the seller to cover it

One of the best ways to pay for closing costs is to negotiate with the home’s seller to cover some or all of the costs. Depending on the housing market in your area, sellers may be anxious to close a deal quickly and will be more motivated to pay for your closing costs just to get the sale over with. If you show a willingness to close quickly, you will have more bargaining power.

“If you have zero money saved, I have seen Realtors ask the seller to cover 3% of closing costs,” said Beeston. “If the house is under $150,000, you may need to ask for more than 3%, but that’s something the Realtor can negotiate.”

Look for closing-cost assistance programs

A number of states offer first-time home buyer programs and closing-cost assistance grants. In return for a commitment of living in your new home for at least a few years, you can get a grant to help with closing costs. To find programs near you, check out your state housing authority.

Bottom line? When it comes to buying a home, we typically expect to spend years scraping up enough money to cover a down payment and closing costs—but that might not be necessary. There are plenty of ways to downsize not only your down payment, but those pesky closing costs to put homeownership within reach for as little as $10,000, or even less.

Article by Kat Tretina

Home Buyers Reveal: ‘What I Wish I Had Known Before Buying My First Home’

Love. Terror. Giddiness. Teeth-gnashing desperation. Buying your first home involves all these emotions, and more. And like so many other milestones in life, you won’t fully understand it until you go through the process yourself.

In an effort to clue you into some of the challenges you’ll face as a first-time home buyer, we asked some folks who’ve already gone through the ringer to spill what they wish they’d known earlier that would have saved them a ton of time, effort, and tears. Here’s to hoping their 20/20 hindsight will help pave your own path to homeownership.

Even if a home looks ‘perfect,’ it has problems

First-time home buyer Hunt Ethridge fell hard for a recently renovated house in Jersey City, NJ, which looked like it was in absolutely perfect condition. What could go wrong?

The home inspection, that’s what.

“My home inspector found a laundry list of issues,” Ethridge says. “He pointed out that the hardwood floor had been lacquered without sweeping, so dirt was sealed into it. Kitchen appliances were broken. Some windows were missing caulking. Worst of all was an old underground oil tank.”

After recovering from his shock, Ethridge used this info to renegotiate a lower price with the home sellers. He is grateful he didn’t pass on the home inspection and urges all home buyers to never skip this step.

“The last thing you want to discover after you buy is a major problem that could have been identified early on,” he says.

The takeaway: No matter how nice a home looks, a home inspection is the only way to make sure you aren’t buying a lemon, says Jane Peters, broker and owner of Home Jane Realty in Los Angeles. “You don’t have to ask the home seller to make repairs,” she adds, “but you do need to know whether you should proceed with the purchase or not.”

Step away from the computer

Jonathan Cooper and his wife had a baby on the way, so they were ready and raring to buy their first home in Royersford, PA. They spent hours scrolling through real estate listings and Googling questions such as “how much home can I afford?”

This was all well and good, but at some point, a mortgage broker gave him some sage advice: “Stop Googling, move away from the computer and into the real world.”

Sure, online surfing and research serve a purpose, but if you’re serious about buying a home, “it’s not until you get pre-approved for a mortgage that the home-buying process gets real,” Cooper points out.

The takeaway: “You can’t get pre-approved by plugging in simple numbers on a mortgage calculator,” Peters says. “You need an experienced lender who will take a detailed history and require documentation of your assets and income. This is the only way you’ll establish if you qualify for a mortgage and for how much.”

Never miss a deadline

When Steven Mingilton and his brother found the perfect condo in Denver and their offer was accepted, they wanted to celebrate. However, their lender informed them that the closing process would take about two months. “And within those 60 days, we had a hefty to-do list,” Mingilton says.

Mingilton and his brother struggled to keep up with the copious paperwork and nearly missed an essential appointment to complete their loan.

“We had to beg and plead our case,” Mingilton remembers. “Thankfully, we were able to hustle and finalize.”

The takeaway: “Buying a home requires you to stay on top of your to-do items, especially during the escrow process where there may be penalties for missing a deadline,” says Peters. “Prime among this is the three-day requirement to send in your deposit. Miss that and you may miss out on the deal.”

Choose a lender you like

Newbie home buyer Aaron Norris loved the real estate agent who helped him find his Riverside, CA, residence, but his lender was a “total jerk.”

“I couldn’t believe how disengaged and unprofessional he was,” Norris recalls. “He wouldn’t return emails or phone calls in a timely manner. He dragged his feet on a transaction that required speed, and he simply did not communicate.”

Although everything worked out OK in the end, he regrets not shopping for a lender he liked: “I felt like I was working for him and that he was not on my team.”

The takeaway: “A lender can make or break a deal, so choose wisely,” says Peters. “One of the main things to look for besides the loan rate is the responsiveness of the lender. They need to move fast or the deal may fail.”

Here are some questions to ask mortgage lenders to help you decide which one is right for you.

Summon reserves of patience

While hunting for their first home in Omaha, NB, Jordan Bath and her partner put in several offers on different properties—all of which fell through.

“At the time, it was a major disappointment,” she recalls. Their real estate agent kept advising them to be patient. Sure enough, after a year of losing out on properties, the perfect home fell into their laps.

“Our agent overheard a contractor mention he was doing work on a house in our dream neighborhood,” Bath recalls. “She asked him for the address and seller’s information, and we were able to purchase the house without it ever hitting the market.”

Now, Bath says, they can look back at those frustrating “misses” and realize “they weren’t meant to be.”

The takeaway: It’s tough not to get disheartened while house hunting, says Peters. “Competition is fierce, and you need to prepare yourself for the long haul.”

You may need to adjust your criteria so more possibilities are opened up. In the meantime, “keep making those offers,” Peters says. “One of them will get accepted.”

Article by Stephanie Booth

Autumn Safety Tips

There’s nothing like the crisp, cool air and luscious foliage to get you excited for the changing seasons. Your pet, too, is probably welcoming a break from summer’s hot, sticky weather. But fall is also a time of lurking dangers for our furry friends. From household poisons to cold weather hazards, there are important safety issues to consider.

Below are some tips to keep your pet happy and healthy during the autumn months.

Be Cautious of Rodenticides and Cold Weather Poisons
The use of rat and mouse poisons increase in the fall as rodents seek shelter from the cooler temperatures by attempting to move indoors. Rodenticides are highly toxic to pets and, if ingested, the results could be fatal. If you must use these products, please do so with extreme caution and put them in places inaccessible to your pets.

Many people choose fall as the time to change their car’s engine coolant. Ethylene glycol-based coolants are highly toxic, so spills should be cleaned up immediately. Consider switching to propylene glycol-based coolants—though they aren’t completely nontoxic, they are much less toxic than other engine coolants.

Keep School Supplies Out of Paws’ Reach
Fall is back-to-school time, and those of you with young children know that means stocking up on items like glue sticks, pencils and magic markers. Although these items are considered low toxicity to pets, gastrointestinal upset and blockages can occur if ingested. Be sure your children keep their school supplies out of your pet’s reach.

Steer Clear of Mushrooms
Fall and spring are mushroom seasons. While 99% of mushrooms have little or no toxicity, the 1% that are highly toxic can cause life-threatening problems in pets. Since most toxic mushrooms are difficult to distinguish from nontoxic ones, the best way to prevent pets from ingesting these poisonous plants is to keep them away from areas where any mushrooms are growing. Please visit our Poisonous Plants page for more information. Contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 immediately if you witness your pet eating a wild mushroom.

Watch Out for Wildlife
Autumn is the season when snakes are preparing for hibernation, increasing the possibility of bites to those unlucky pets who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pet parents should know what kinds of venomous snakes may be lurking in their environment—and where those snakes are most likely to be found—so pets can be kept out of those areas.

How to Get a Mortgage Without Financially Freaking Out

Wondering how to get a mortgage, but scared to death you’ll mess things up? To be sure, buying a house is exciting, but there’s a fine line between excitement and pure, unadulterated fear.

This emotional roller coaster can be partly explained by the fact that “money represents so much more than just currency,” according to Emily Stroud, a certified financial adviser and author of “Faithful Finance: 10 Secrets to Move from Fearful Insecurity to Confident Control.

Consciously or not, you may equate money with power or safety. As such, funneling a large portion of your dough toward a home can be nerve-rattling.

So in case you find yourself freaking out, here are the Jedi-like mind tricks that can help you navigate the scarier parts of the mortgage and home-buying process—and keep your cool.

Educate yourself on how to get a mortgage

“The level of financial literacy in America is dismal,” says Holeman. “Money is often too taboo to be spoken about in the home, and isn’t well-taught in school either.”

That doesn’t absolve you of fiscal responsibility. It means you’re going to have to work harder to understand the info that you need when it comes time to buy a home.

Take baby steps—like checking out a home affordability calculator that crunches the numbers instantly on your income and debts and estimates what price house you can afford.

Once you can do that without hyperventilating, you can research the more nuanced idea of debt-to-income ratio (how much you owe versus how much you make) and making sure yours is no more than 36%. (Higher than that and you may not comfortably buy a house and keep your shirt.)

Too soon? Hands feeling a little clammy? Then ease off the money talk and…

Learn from other home buyers

“Friends or family members who’ve purchased a property likely felt the same anxiety you’re feeling,” points out Chris Taylor, a broker and investment property specialist with Advantage Real Estate in Boston. “They can be extremely helpful by sharing their own experience and answering any questions you may have.”

You know your Uncle Fred who managed to buy a great home after bankruptcy? Your worrywart friend who’s already on her third home? Now’s a good time to ask them to share their secret sauce.

Understand the basics of a mortgage

Before you make open houses a hobby, study up on the basics of applying for a mortgage, making a payment, and some of the costs associated with being a homeowner. Ever heard of private mortgage insurance? Know about closing costs?

“Don’t go nuts,” cautions Taylor, “but get familiar with some of the key terms and major steps.” Consider it exposure therapy. Check out our stress-free guide to getting a mortgage for more info.

Talk to a mortgage lender

Before you ever set foot in a house, you should meet with a mortgage lender. This pro can walk you through the steps you need to take to get ready for the home-buying process IRL. For one, he can tell you exactly how much money you’d be pre-approved for, so you can shop for houses you know you can afford.

After you have your financial affairs in order, “you’ll be able to enjoy the process of purchasing a new home without fear and anxiety,” says Stroud. (Well, maybe not “enjoy.” Let’s say “tolerate.”)

Just don’t forget to…

Find professionals you trust

Sometimes it’s hard to entrust your financial information to strangers, even if they’re the ones willing to loan you the money you need to buy a place! As such, it’s essential that you shop around for a mortgage—not only to find a professional you click with, but also to ensure you get the very best interest rate, which can vary from lender to lender. The difference of even a quarter of a percentage point could save you thousands throughout the life of your loan. And remember, although you’re borrowing money from them, they’re still working for you.

As such, all home buyers should meet with at least three lenders and compare what they have to offer, or meet with a mortgage broker who can survey all the options on your behalf. Same goes with finding a trustworthy real estate agent who can help you find a home that suits your needs.

Stay focused on the numbers that count

“Getting a mortgage is about more than buying a house—it’s having access to a home, a place to live, a place to raise your family or retire, a place that will bring memories for years,” says Ray Rodriguez, regional mortgage sales manager at TD Bank. (No pressure!)

Of course, seeing the amount of your entire mortgage on paper may give you sticker shock. You wouldn’t be the first (and you won’t be the last) prospective buyer to panic, to wonder “How am I ever going to pay that back?”

Breathe. And choose a more accurate number to fixate on: your monthly payment.

“As long as you’re comfortable with that, the [home-buying process] will be easier to visualize,” assures Rodriguez.

And trust that, in general, the money you pour into that mortgage every month helps increase your home equity, which means that over time, this home becomes officially yours with no lender lording over. In other words, you have nothing to fear.

Article by Stephanie Booth

How to Replace Weather Stripping

When weather stripping on doors and windows gets worn out, cold air comes sneaking in. Here’s how to replace weather stripping and stop air leaks.

 

Weather stripping on windows and doors protects the home from air leaks while increasing comfort and saving energy. But as weather stripping ages, it loses its effectiveness.

Stay ahead of the game by checking for worn-out weather stripping and replacing it.

Identifying Worn Weather Stripping

Weather stripping deteriorates due to age, friction, and exposure to the elements. It also can be damaged by people, pets, and pests. At least once each year, inspect your windows and doors to check for air leaks that indicate your weather stripping isn’t doing its job.

  • Self-adhesive foam tape loses its grip over time, causing it to pull away from the door or window frame — or fall off completely. Foam also can lose its resilience, no longer springing up to fill the gap.
  • Rubber and vinyl weather stripping becomes dry, brittle, and cracked. Over time, it can also lose its shape and effectiveness.
  • Spring-metal V-shaped weather stripping bends out of shape, cracks in spots, and comes loose thanks to missing nails.

How to Remove Old Weather Stripping

For peel-and-stick-type weather stripping, simply pull the foam strips off the door or window by hand. Stripping that is fastened in place with nails or screws requires a more tedious process of locating and removing all the fasteners.

Options for New Weather Stripping

There’s no shortage of weather stripping options at hardware stores and home improvement centers. As is often the case, the cheaper and easier the product is to install, the less effective and durable it probably is over time.

Adhesive-backed foam tape is inexpensive — costing less than a buck a foot — and peel-and-stick types are easy as pie to install. It works best where the bottom of a window sash closes against a sill, or a door closes against a doorframe. It’s the compression that produces the seal. Don’t expect this product to survive longer than 3 to 5 years.

V-shaped weather stripping, sometimes called tension-seal weather stripping, is the best option for the side channels of a double-hung window or a tight-fitting door. This product springs open to close gaps and plug leaky windows and doors.

Inexpensive peel-and-stick V-shaped vinyl (as little as $0.50 per foot) is easy to install but won’t last much longer than foam tape. More expensive copper or bronze styles cost as much as $2 per foot and must be nailed into place, but they look better and will last decades.

Tubular rubber or vinyl gaskets prove the most effective for sealing large and irregular gaps, such as around an old door. These hollow tubes are large enough to plug big gaps but soft enough to compress nearly flat. Types that are nailed in place last longer than peel-and-stick varieties. Prices range from less than $1 per foot for peel-and-stick to $1.25 per foot for nail-in-place.

Prepare the Surface

Before installing any new weather stripping, start with a smooth, clean, and dry surface. Remove all old adhesive using an adhesive cleaner and perhaps a light sanding. Fill and sand old nail holes. If old screw holes can’t be reused, fill and sand those as well.

Installation Tips

  • Some peel-and-stick types should only be applied when the temps are at least 50 degrees. Check the product label.
  • Start with one small area to make sure the door or window opens and closes without difficulty before completing the entire job.
  • Measure twice before cutting to prevent mistakes and waste.
  • Cut rubber and vinyl varieties with shears or a utility knife, and metal types with tin snips. Be careful not to bend the thin metal while cutting it.
  • Make sure to face the opening of V-shaped weather stripping out toward the elements to prevent moisture from getting inside.

Installing Weather Stripping

Adhesive-style weather stripping: Remove the backing and press firmly in place. Removing the backing as you go helps prevent the sticky part of the strip from accidentally adhering to something it shouldn’t.

Nail-in weather stripping: Fasten the strips in place by nailing through the pre-punched holes. For double-hung windows, you’ll need to install the lower half, drop the sash, and then install the upper half.

Article by DOUGLAS TRATTNER

How to Get Wax Out of Carpet and Other Halloween Cleanup Hacks

Cleaning egg off your house is the first thing to tackle. The wax can wait.

A week ago you were worried about how to get spooky outdoor Halloween decorations into your life, but now you want to get the ickiest holiday of the year out of your house.

Those melting candles, special makeup effects, and sticky treats have taken a toll on your home. Here’s how to get wax out of carpet and other tricks for post-Halloween cleanup:

Cleaning Egg Off Your House

Sun-baked yolks can stain your siding, so get started right away. Hose the mess off the house, spraying above the egg so the falling water can wash it away. If that doesn’t do the trick, wash it off by hand with dish soap and warm water. While learning how to remove egg from house siding, consider if it’s time for a more comprehensive cleaning.

Removing Toilet Paper from Trees

Pull down the paper with a rake or blast it away with a leaf blower. Wet toilet paper is a beast to remove, so wait until the sun evaporates dew. But if there’s rain in the forecast, start removal right away.

Getting Wax Out of Carpet

Trying to remove hot wax will only cause it to spread. Once it has cooled, break up the wax with a dull knife. Cover remaining bits with a paper towel or rag, and press a warm iron to the area. Replace the towel frequently to avoid spreading the wax.

Getting the Ick and Grime Off Doorknobs

After a night of being touched by little sticky fingers, your door fixtures have probably lost some luster. Restore the shine with a spritz of hydrogen peroxide.

Removing Halloween Makeup From Upholstery and Carpet

If only learning how to get wax out of carpet solved all your floor problems. The good news is many commercial carpet and upholstery cleaners can remove makeup, too. Blot the stain starting from its outer edge and working to the center. Always test the cleaner first on a small spot to make sure no color from the carpet is transferred to the white cloth.

Getting Your Porch Clean

All those grimy pirate boots and well-worn ballet slippers can leave a porch filthy. Remove planters and deck furniture, sweep the deck, then spray it down. If your porch is wood, remember that regular deck care protects your favorite place to kick back.

Cleaning Up Candy Wrappers and Other Litter

The leaf blower is your friend. It will corral candy wrappers, litter, leaves, and other debris without breaking your back.

Repairing Damaged Walls

If you decorated inside with a little too much holiday abandon, you might regret all the new holes you created once the festivities are over. Easy fix: Fill the hole with a piece of cosmetic sponge and spackle.

And One Final Tip to Banish Halloween’s Mess…

Halloween costumes lose their appeal around November 2. Don’t let them stick around to clutter the place up. While you’re purging, get rid of summer clothing (and costumes!) you or your kids have outgrown.
Article by

Coconut Flour Pumpkin Bread

This delicious coconut flour pumpkin bread is grain free and dairy free, perfect for anyone avoiding grains or on the paleo diet.

Close up of slices of pecan pumpkin bread sitting on white plate with orange napkin

This coconut flour pumpkin bread recipe is a great grain free sweetbread to make around the holidays! If you’re new to baking with coconut flour, pumpkin bread is one of the best recipes to start with. This bread is soft and dense like traditional pumpkin bread, just without the gluten and grains.

This recipe calls for arrowroot powder. This type of flour really helps to make the loaf of bread lighter, but you don’t have to use it if you don’t have it or if you’re avoiding arrowroot starch in your diet. Simple leave it out of the recipe and the bread will still turn out wonderful.

Ingredients

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients and set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites and sea salt together until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  3. Mix egg yolks, pumpkin puree, coconut oil vanilla and mixed nuts (if using).
  4. Mix dry ingredients with pumpkin mixture until well combined. Fold in egg whites.
  5. Pour bread batter into a well greased bread loaf pan. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Take foil off and continue to bake until cooked through, another 15-30 minutes.
  6. Turn off oven and leave bread in the oven for 30 minutes (this will allow the middle to finish cooking).
  7. Remove bread from pan and let cool on wire rack.

Mortgage Rates Retreat, but Housing Market Supply Crunch Won’t Let Up

Rates for home loans fell in tandem with the bond market, a welcome respite for the housing market after a recent run-up in home financing costs.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.85% in the October 18 week, down 5 basis points, mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday.

The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.26%, down from 4.29%. The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 4.10%, up 3 basis points.

Those rates don’t include fees associated with obtaining mortgage loans.

Mortgage rates follow the path of the 10-year U.S. Treasury note, but with a lag. That means that Freddie’s “weekly” survey, though dated and released Thursday morning, tends to capture mortgage and bond market activity from earlier in the week.

After zooming to a seven-year high earlier in October, bond yields have settled lower. Investors sold bonds after statements from the Federal Reserve signalled the central bank was likely to keep raising interest rates, and as a fresh supply of government debt has flooded onto the market to pay for surging deficit spending. Both trends would diminish the value of bonds that have already been issued, and bond yields rise as prices fall.

Meanwhile, the housing market continues to struggle.

The pace of newly-started housing projects sank in September, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. New-home construction is 6.4% higher for the year to date than in the same period last year, but it looks to be losing momentum at a moment when fresh supply is desperately needed.

“The economy and consumer sentiment remain very robust and that will sustain purchase demand, particularly in affordable markets and neighborhoods,” Freddie Chief Economist Sam Khater said Thursday. But for many buyers, home affordability isn’t the issue — availability is. When there aren’t enough homes to buy, prices go up and buyers drop out.

On Friday, the National Association of Realtors will report on September sales of previously-owned homes. Some analysts believe that September may bring rosier housing data than in prior months, but most are pessimistic about the bigger picture for the housing market.

Article by Andrea Riquier

5 Low-Cost Ideas for a Kitchen Remodel on a Budget

The average kitchen remodel costs the same as an Ivy League school. But you don’t have to pay that much.

If you’ve got $65,000 lying around, you could buy a luxury SUV. You could pay for one year at Harvard. Or you could remodel your kitchen. Yup. It typically costs that much.

But unlike fancy new cars and Ivy League experiences, you can opt out of the full retail price of a kitchen remodel. Here are five low-cost ideas so you can remodel your kitchen on a budget.

 

 

#1 Keep the Cabinets, But Change the Doors

New cabinets are a big chunk of the average kitchen remodel cost (30%-35%). But most of the time, it’s only the fronts that need updating.

A great low-hassle way to save on pricey new cabinets is to buy only the fronts from a manufacturer, like these gorgeous blue ones that were installed on existing cabinets.

Or, if you’re into DIY, save even more, possibly spending only a few hundred dollars by:

  • Repainting or staining
  • Adding new trim or molding
  • Removing doors for an open-shelf look

Don’t forget new kitchen hardware, a tiny, affordable change — even if you don’t change your cabinet fronts.

#2 Stencil Outdated Tile Instead of Replacing It

Tearing out old tile and replacing it with new can get expensive. To free up some serious room in your budget, just paint it.

Tile stencils are easy to find online, and it only takes a little prep-work to get your tiles ready. You’ll be done in less time than it would take to pry half the old tiles off the wall.

#3 Use DIY Kits to Update the Lighting

One of the easiest and most affordable ways to update your kitchen is to use a recessed lighting conversion kit — no electrician required.

The kits only cost $15-$20 each and are a cinch to install, even for DIY newbies. The parts screw right into the recessed light, a brace holds the new light fixture in place, and a decorative cover hides the recessed light.

In about 15 minutes, you’ve got dramatic new kitchen lighting.

#4 Paint the Floor Instead of Replacing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have an old wood floor or have pulled up your old flooring only to find subflooring (rather than the beautiful hardwoods you were hoping for), try paint.

It might seem a shame to paint wood floors. But professional refinishing can cost as much as $2,000, while painting costs $200 — or less, depending on the size of your floor. That makes it one of the most budget-friendly kitchen updates you can do .

For the most durable results, use polyurethane-based porch and floor enamel.

#5 Keep the Footprint, But Change the Look

Send a dingy or dated kitchen down the disposal with two updates that make a big impact: a new backsplash and countertop.

Together, they cover an awful lot of surface area, setting the stage for a totally new kitchen look.

A little paint on those cabinets, and it’s like a brand new kitchen.

The countertop pictured is quartz, a timeless choice, but if it’s not in your budget, there are plenty of DIY countertop options, too.

Article by KELLEY WALTERS

Halloween Safety Tips

Halloween can be the spookiest night of the year, but keeping your pets safe doesn’t have to be tricky. The ASPCA recommends taking these simple, common sense precautions to keep your pet happy and healthy all the way to November 1.

Stash the Treats
The candy bowl is for trick-or-treaters, not Scruffy or Fluffy. Several popular Halloween treats are toxic to pets. Chocolate in all forms—especially dark or baking chocolate—can be very dangerous for cats and dogs, and sugar-free candies containing the sugar substitute xylitol can cause serious problems in pets. If you suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 immediately.

Watch the Decorations and Keep Wires Out of Reach
While a carved jack-o-lantern certainly is festive, pets can easily knock over a lit pumpkin and start a fire. Curious kittens are especially at risk of getting burned or singed by candle flame. Popular Halloween plants such as pumpkins and decorative corn are considered relatively nontoxic, but can produce stomach discomfort in pets who nibble on them.

Be Careful with Costumes
For some pets, wearing a costume may cause undue stress. The ASPCA recommends that you don’t put your dog or cat in a costume unless you know he or she loves it. If you do dress up your pet for Halloween, make sure the costume does not limit his or her movement, sight or ability to breathe, bark or meow. Check the costume carefully for small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces that could present a choking hazard. Ill-fitting outfits can get twisted on external objects or your pet, leading to injury.

Be sure to have your pet try on the costume before the big night. If he or she seems distressed or shows abnormal behavior, consider letting your pet wear his or her “birthday suit” or don a festive bandana instead.

Keep Pets Calm and Easily Identifiable
Halloween brings a flurry of activity with visitors arriving at the door, and too many strangers can often be scary and stressful for pets. All but the most social dogs and cats should be kept in a separate room away from the front door during peak trick-or-treating hours. While opening the door for guests, be sure that your dog or cat doesn’t dart outside. And always make sure your pet it wearing proper identification—if for any reason he or she does escape, a collar with ID tags and/or a microchip can be a lifesaver for a lost pet.

How To Make The Best Pumpkin Soup Ever

Ready for the best pumpkin soup recipe ever? A bowl of this thick and creamy soup spiced with turmeric will warm your body and soul.
Recipe by: Felicia Lim

Tools

  • Baking tray
  • Large skillet
  • Wooden spoon
  • Blender

Ingredients

  • 1 medium kabocha pumpkin (or 3 cups organic pumpkin purée)
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 t turmeric
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups chicken bone broth
  • 2 T full-fat coconut cream
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pumpkin seeds, for topping

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Cut the pumpkin in half and place halves skin-side down on a baking tray. Roast for 45 minutes, or until fork tender.
  • While the pumpkin is roasting, sauté the onions and garlic in a large skillet until the onions are tender and translucent (about 10 minutes).
  • Add the turmeric, bay leaves, and stock, and let the ingredients simmer for 15 minutes on low heat.
  • When the pumpkin is done roasting, scrape out the flesh with a spoon or fork and add the flesh to the skillet. Mix well and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  • Transfer the ingredients to a blender; blend for 20 to 30 seconds, until you get a thick and creamy mixture.
  • Return the mixture to the skillet over medium-low heat, mix in the coconut cream, and then add salt to taste.
  • Divide the pumpkin soup evenly between bowls, top with pumpkin seeds, and serve.

Tip: If you don’t have fresh pumpkin available, you can also use organic canned pumpkin purée – just make sure it’s 100% pumpkin with no added sugars or preservatives.

6 Reasons Why Selling a House in the Winter May Be the Best Decision Ever

Spring is generally the most popular time of year to sell a house, with hordes of buyers looking to move into a new place before the school year begins. But if you decide to sell your home during the winter, experts say you could reap a reward in cold, hard cash.

“I have personally had my best months in real estate during the holiday season, so the idea that the markets are very tough to sell in the winter might be a myth,” says Emil Hartoonian, managing partner of The Agency in Beverly Hills, CA.

He’s not the only one who believes selling in the winter can make you a real estate winner. Read on for the top reasons why you should consider unloading when the temperatures drop.

1. Low inventory = less competition

Since spring is the most popular home-selling season, the housing market is ultracrowded with options at that time of year. And if you paid attention during Econ 101, you understand the law of supply and demand.

“Most sellers still think they need to sell in the spring, but that means there is more competition for buyers’ attention,” says Matt Van Winkle, founder of Re/Max Northwest in Seattle.

But in the winter, there are fewer homes for sale. That competition over low inventory can make winter an ideal time to sell your home.

“In the Atlanta market, January is one of the strongest months for homes to go under contract,” says Ally May of Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s.

2. You get to show your home’s winter-readiness

Selling in the winter also gives you the opportunity to show that a home is designed to handle the harsh elements.

“Sellers in places like Lake Tahoe can show off features like a south-facing driveway to speed up snow melting, how snow will fall off of a roof, a short driveway that will minimize shoveling or plowing, heat tape on the north side of the roof to avoid snow accumulation, and how recently the roof and furnace have been replaced,” says Sandy Soli, regional manager at Engel & Völkers in Lake Tahoe, NV.

Plus, during winter months, homes with features like fireplaces and hot tubs are certainly more appealing.

3. New parents may be looking to upgrade

The baby boom in September may lead to more buyers later in the year. According to data from the Center for Health Statistics and the Social Security Administration, there are more birthdays in the month of September than any other time of the year. Therefore, there’s likely to be a crop of growing families looking to buy a larger house.

“Once baby is home and settled, these parents may want to start the year in a new, and more spacious, family home,” according to Melissa Temple, real estate adviser and partner at Engel & Völkers in Aspen, CO.

4. Winter brings out the serious buyers

News flash: Not everyone looking at houses intends to make a purchase. Some people are contemplating moving and may just want to see what’s on the market. Since more homes tend to go on the market in spring and fall, this is also when window shoppers are likely to be out looking.

However, these looky-loos tend to be scarce during winter months, according to Jennifer Baldinger, licensed associate real estate broker at Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty in Scarsdale, NY.

“When I have buyers looking for homes in January and February, they’re real buyers looking to make a purchase—especially if it’s a great house. They don’t want to take the chance of waiting until spring and losing out on the home,” Baldinger says.

“There may be less people at these open houses, but I would rather have 10 real buyers come through than 20 people who are just curious,” she says.

5. Year-end financial bonuses and payouts

As a seller, year-end performance reviews could mean that more people have money to spend on a home.

“End-of-year financial bonuses or workers retiring with large payouts could mean opportunities for these buyers to upgrade their living situations or for first-time buyers to enter the housing market,” according to Temple.

6. Corporate relocation

You could also encounter buyers who are relocating for a job.

“One of the biggest months for corporate relocation is January/February, so those buyers, who need to move quickly, are out in full force looking for new homes,” Baldinger says.

Relocators typically have a limited amount of time to uproot their families and, as a result, don’t have the luxury of spending a lot of time looking at properties. The kids need to get settled into school, and dealing with selling their old home can add another level of urgency and stress. So it’s likely that once they find a home that meets their requirements, these buyers will be ready to sign on the dotted line.

Article by Terri Williams

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