Do These Tasks First to Make Your New House Feel Like Home 

Written By Jim McKinley, Contributing Writer for InFluential Magazine

We all want our living space to be organized, functional, and to feel like home. Buying a new house gives you a fresh start, a chance to create the ultimate space that works for everyday life, and reflects your style. That thought may be overwhelming or it may be exciting, but most likely, you’re feeling a little bit of both. Don’t worry! Creating your ideal home won’t happen all at once, but these tips will help you settle into your new house quickly and happily so it feels like home.

Start with These Maintenance Tasks 

Before unpacking and decorating, doing a few easy maintenance projects will help make your new home both safe and comfortable.

  • Change locks – You never know who has keys to the home from the previous owners, so have all exterior locks changed and get a new set of keys.
  • Check safety devices – Make sure all carbon monoxide and smoke detectors work, and replace the batteries in them. If the home already has fire extinguishers, check to make sure they aren’t expired. If not, install a fire extinguisher in any room where there is a risk of fire, such as the kitchen.
  • HVAC and electrical tune-ups - Familiarize yourself with your home’s main systems, including the HVAC system, and change the air filter right away to help it run effectively. It can’t hurt to go ahead and have your system checked professionally. This can go a long way toward helping the air quality in your home. U.S. News also recommends cleaning your dryer vent to prevent fire. You should also locate the electrical panel and water shut-off valves.
  • Minor improvement projects – Unless you are absolutely sure of what you want, it’s best to put off big home improvement projects until you have lived in the home. But some projects like painting are simple enough and actually easier to do before you have unpacked everything. Plus, fresh paint on the walls is a quick and easy way to start putting your design touches on the house and make it start to feel like home.

Unpack, Organize, and Decorate! 

When it comes to this part, you may not know where to start because there is so much to do. Remember that you can’t do it all at once, so start with what will make the biggest difference. Come up with a plan for how to arrange furniture, and think about how you will use each room and how you want it to flow. Getting furniture in place is the perfect start because it serves as a springboard for the rest of your unpacking and decorating.

Next, work on unpacking one room at a time with a plan for organizing. You can always organize later, but it’s much easier to do it now so that clutter doesn’t become a problem in the first place. Some things may change as you get used to living in the home, such as realizing where you actually end up doing meal prep in the kitchen, which could mean swapping some plates or utensils around. But making these simple swaps is easier in a space that is already organized.

To get started with home decor, pick a few easy projects that will make a big impact quickly. For example, curtains are a great way to bring life to your new home. Depending on where you hang them, curtains can be used to make a room look bigger, or they can be used to create special areas or function as room dividers. They can even be used to hide storage space. HGTV has great suggestions for other decorating upgrades that are inexpensive and high-impact, such as adding a headboard or bringing flower arrangements into your home.

Moving can certainly be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Start with a plan of action with these tasks at the top of your list. Don’t forget that things don’t always go according to plan, so stay flexible, go with the flow, and enjoy the process of creating your perfect space.

Photo credit: Pixabay

Finding the Second Home That Brings More Enjoyment Than Stress  

Written By Jim McKinley, Contributor for InFluential Magazine

A lot goes into buying a vacation home. Besides figuring out the style and location, you need to consider home maintenance and how to keep insurance costs down. Then there’s the option of buying your second home as an investment property, which brings other aspects to the table. Purchasing a retirement home is exciting, but you want to do it the right way. Here are some things to consider that can help you minimize mistakes and make the right decisions. 

Where Should You Live?

When you’re making plans to buy a vacation home, one of the first things to determine is the location. There’s more to it than picking a general area, like the beach or mountains. The key is deciding what you want from the home and making it accessible. For instance, think about the hobbies and activities you want to do and pick a place where you can easily access them.

What Kind of Home Should You Choose?

When choosing what kind of home to buy, think about a place that is suitable for all ages. In other words, pick a house that’s accessible to everyone — from your 7-year-old grandchild to your future 90-year-old self. As Forbes contributor Craig Venezia explains, “Open floor plans, wide doorways and unobstructed exterior entryways work for everyone but won’t inhibit mobility as you age.” While one-story houses are ideal, two-story houses can work as long as there’s a room downstairs that can later be converted into a bedroom. 

Who Will Maintain the Home? 

Another factor to consider is the maintenance of your second home. Installing an alarm should be the first thing you do. There are also things you can do to prepare for seasonal changes, such as caulking leaks and turning off the water so your pipes don’t freeze. Cleaning the home before you leave is another practical way to ensure that you return to a relaxing place on your next visit. Also, consider installing a coded entry lock on your door so that anyone with the code can enter the house if you’re hundreds of miles away.

Upkeep can increase your property value as well. You should be able to do at least some of the maintenance yourself, but consider hiring a concierge service, property management company, or local cleaners and maintenance workers to take some of the pressure off.

Keeping Insurance Costs Down 

When researching insurance policies for your second home, you want to get proper coverage at the lowest price, taking into account that it won’t be occupied year-round (unless you’re renting it out). If you have homeowners insurance on your primary home, check to see if the policy will cover a second home. If you need to purchase a separate policy for your second home, choose one with coverage for any disasters in the area, such as fire, hail storms, hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes. Installing a security system could save you a little money, as well as asking about discounts if you’re bundling the policy with another kind of coverage.

Buying as an Investment Property

Another option is to buy a second home as an investment. It’s generally a good idea to find a low-maintenance home so that you can save money on repairs and put it toward something else. One way to make money is to rent the home out. Because of the internet, you now have more options and control with how you rent out your home than ever before. There’s an active market in most retirement meccas, and you can make great money during the high season.

Keep in mind that if you do decide to rent out your property, you’ll need to make sure it’s fully furnished for tenants, which will be an additional investment. If you’re tight on funds, consider keeping decorative pieces to a minimum and investing in multi-functional furniture pieces; a chaise sofa sectional fits in every shape of living room or den, and doubles as a couch and a bed; a bed with storage underneath will save you the expense of buying a dresser; and a dining room table with benches instead of chairs will save you some money while still providing guests with ample seating at meal times.

When purchasing a vacation home, you want to do what you can to make it an overall enjoyable experience. Taking your age and desires into consideration will help you choose the right location and type of home. Make good decisions about maintenance, insurance policies, and whether to turn it into an investment property, and your second home can turn out to be a true vacation spot instead of a burden.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

House Hunting and Credit: What You Need to Know

By now it is something of a cliche to call homeownership the American dream. But even if sitting on your own deck, looking over your picket fence and sipping lemonade doesn’t move you, homeownership is still one of the best ways to build wealth.

For many, owning a home is cheaper than renting and, in the long run, the biggest investment they will ever make. It is also a practical financial move thanks to the fact that you’re likely building equity while getting a mortgage interest tax break.

So although it is perfectly fine to dream about backyard barbecues and the smell of fresh-cut grass, the path to owning your own home should also involve taking the time to do some financial sightseeing.

As a leader in creating credit scoring models, VantageScore Solutions has made it a priority to educate consumers on the important role a good credit history plays in buying a home.

Whether you’re about to set out to buy your first home or if you are getting ready to sell and buy another home, here are the basics of how credit impacts the home-buying process.

Basics

If you are like most people, you will probably need to take out a loan. If you are able to pay cash for your home instead, count yourself among the lucky few!

A huge part of taking out a loan involves your credit history and credit score. Basically, you must prove to lenders that you can be a responsible borrower and can be trusted with a mortgage of many thousands of dollars. A strong credit score may provide proof of this trustworthiness.

Different types of loans have different credit requirements. Some loans require you to have a credit score of at least 620, although it is possible (with some difficulty) to be approved for a loan with a credit score as low as 580. But getting loan approval is only part of the story.

Better credit, better rate

Home loans come in all shapes and sizes. Some are fixed interest mortgages, some have adjustable rates or longer terms and the list of variables goes on. Just like anything else, some loans are better for you than others. To get the loan that has the lowest interest rate, which right now is around 4 percent, usually requires a higher credit score. Rates can be considerably higher when you have a lower credit score, and the result is paying significantly more monthly over the life of the loan.

The reason is that a higher credit score demonstrates that you are skilled at managing debt and have a history of responsibly paying back many types of loans. Therefore, the lender is taking on less risk when lending you money. The less risk for them, the better the interest rate for you.

While there are, of course, more nuances to the process, your credit score plays an instrumental role in determining the type of loan you may qualify for. Therefore, before you go to your first open house, check your credit score to better understand the factors that typically impact your scores. Many websites provide free access to your VantageScore, which is a perfectly fine barometer to use to directionally gauge your creditworthiness. Mortgage lenders use FICO scores in their underwriting.

You can stay on top of things by subscribing to the monthly credit scoring newsletter, The Score. In The Score, you can find information on VantageScore 4.0, the fourth-generation scoring model that will be available to consumers in early 2018.

Knowing your credit history and understanding the factors that could impact your credit score will help you plan, budget and come up with a realistic wish list for your house.  (BPT)