Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Renovation loans give homebuyers an edge in a competitive market

"Move-in-ready homes may be selling like hotcakes, but older homes or damaged properties are often passed over," says Margaret Kelly, CEO with RE/MAX. "This is a big opportunity for smart buyers who are willing to overlook cosmetic or other imperfections."

If buyers can look beyond aesthetic characteristics like paint color, hardware and floor coverings, they may discover a diamond in the rough, especially if the home is in the neighborhood where they prefer to live. For example, if they like the overall design of a particular home, but the kitchen is old and the deck needs major repairs, a renovation loan can help them purchase the property while upgrading the kitchen and outdoor space exactly how they want them.

"Many homebuyers are surprised you don't need a ton of money in the bank to fund improvements," explains Kelly. "A special type of loan called a renovation loan is ideal for these types of homes because it covers both the cost of the mortgage and repairs."

Renovation loans can also help buyers who want to purchase in a particular neighborhood where most home prices exceed their budget. Properties that need work are typically listed at a lower cost and often go unsold, creating an opportunity for people willing to make improvements. Buyers can use a renovation loan to get into the neighborhood of their dreams, quickly build equity and customize a home to their personal preferences.

Several variations of renovation loans are available. FHA renovation loans are called 203(k) loans. How much money you want to borrow and the kinds of improvements you plan to make will determine which of the two 203(k) types you need. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have their own specific types of renovation loans.

Requirements for the borrower, the amount you can borrow, and the overall structure of the loan are different for each program. Typically, the loan is based on the estimated home value after improvements, and buyers will need to get bids from licensed contractors to help determine the total loan amount as well as a timeline for the work to be completed.

Because finding a home and getting approval of a renovation loan can be complicated, it's wise for buyers to work with a real estate specialist who has experience in these types of sales. For example, RE/MAX agents lead the industry in professional designations and many have experience working with buyers who want a renovation loan. Visit to find an agent in your area.

"A renovation loan really does give homebuyers an edge in today's competitive market," says Kelly. "It's definitely something to research and determine whether it's right for you."

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Autumn edibles: Tips for fall gardening and second plantings

(BPT) - People choose to garden for many reasons: Food is fresher and tastes better. It's a healthy hobby that exercises the body. It saves money. Numerous reports show an increasing number of homeowners are growing their own fruits, vegetables and herbs.

As summer's end nears, you may think gardening season is over. The good news is with a few strategic tips, you can keep your green thumb going and enjoy a plethora of autumn edibles for months to come.

Step 1: Select second plantings

Second plantings are the plants you use for the latter part of the gardening season. Late summer is typically the best time to plant these varieties. Call your local extension offices or access information online to find regionalized planting schedules and recommended plant varieties.

The length of the fall season and when the first frost will likely hit are important considerations when selecting second plantings. Keep in mind that fast-maturing vegetables are ideal for fall gardening and they should be planted early enough to reach maturity before the first frost arrives.

Popular second plantings that yield a delicious late fall/early winter harvest include broccoli, lettuce, turnips, collards, carrots, peas, radish, spinach, leeks and beets. Some people even claim root vegetables and cole crops like kale and turnips taste better after the first frost.

Step 2: Prepare your garden space

If you plan to use your current garden space for second plantings, remove the early-season plants that are done producing. Add those plants to your current compost bin or create a new compost pile with easy-to-use, stylish options from Outdoor Essentials. Wood-slate bins blend well with the outdoor aesthetic and the design allows oxygen to circulate and facilitate the composting process.

Next, prepare your garden space. Elevated garden beds are growing in popularity because they look great anywhere in your yard or on your patio, and are easy to move if necessary. Raised garden beds from Outdoor Essentials elevate the plants so gardeners don't have to bend over and risk injury. They are ideal for fall because gardeners can regulate the temperature of raised beds with ease. On hot days, move or add a shade netting to protect plants from the heat; when frost is a threat, cover the entire bed for protection.

While you're getting your hands dirty, fall is the perfect time to plant spring flowering bulbs. A little outdoor work now and you'll be rewarded with beautiful flowers when spring arrives next year.

Step 3: Enjoy the harvest

Tend your garden daily for the best results - it may just need a quick check for pests and proper soil moisture. Typical benefits of late-season gardening include fewer bothersome bugs and the soil has better water retention.

As plants grow, pick the fruits and vegetables and enjoy Mother Nature's bounty. If your plants become crowded, pluck a few out to help remaining plants grow roots and increase the harvest yield. You may be surprised just how many cool months your plants provide you with fresh, delicious produce.

Fall is a great opportunity to keep gardening momentum alive. So get started and decide what second plantings are best for your space. In as little as 30 days you could be eating the freshest, most flavorful vegetables you've ever had, all while under the gorgeous autumn sun.

Make your own masterpieces - freshly painted focal points for any room

(BPT) - Still love the overall design scheme of a space, but feeling a little bored? The best way to breathe new life into it - without revamping the entire area - is by creating a new focal wall. Instead of a decal, stencil or pricey artwork, make a statement that's one-of-a-kind with a little creativity and painter's tape.

Heavy patterns on every wall can be overwhelming; adding zest to just one is your best bet to make a positive impact. Before you begin, scan the room to determine the best wall to update. When you enter the space, where do your eyes naturally gravitate? If it's an area that you love, amp up the style to make it really stand out. But if it's something that catches your eye for all the wrong reasons, pick a different side of the room. Repositioning the focal point will draw attention away from the elements you don't like or can't easily change, like architectural features, window placement or heating and cooling returns.

Once you've determined where you're going to paint, it's time to think about what. Here are a few easy ideas to get the creativity flowing.

Awesome artwork

Purchasing oversized artwork can be pricey - ranging anywhere from hundreds to even thousands of dollars. Don't shell out a ton of cash to add personality to an empty wall when it's easy to make your own art. Bring your design ideas to life with new FrogTape Shape Tape - a painter's tape cut into unique patterns that allows you to quickly and effortlessly create works of art on walls, accessories, furniture and more. The three Shape Tape patterns - Wave, Scallop and Chevron - can be positioned on surfaces in various ways to achieve different results; by staggering the tape or varying the placement widths, you can make your own impressive designs. Best of all, patented PaintBlock Technology on the edges of FrogTape Shape Tape helps prevent paint bleed and leaves precise lines, keeping your artwork looking sharp. For more information visit

You can create one oversized piece of art directly on the wall, or paint a number of smaller canvases that can be arranged as a DIY gallery. Whatever you choose, you'll have a new focal point that will surely serve as a conversation starter at your next get-together.

Natural touch

Creating a mural on one wall is extremely popular, especially one that helps bring the feel of the outdoors inside. Trees are an easy element to paint on any wall. For a sophisticated look, keep it simple with silhouettes. Use painter's tape to create the outline of birch trees from the floor to the ceiling, leaving six to 12 inches between each trunk. Paint all the trees using the same color. Be sure to use a shade that coordinates with the rest of the room, or a neutral like white, gray or beige delivers a crisp look.

Fabulous faux framing

If your house is lacking interesting architectural features like decorative molding, you can mimic the look with paint and painter's tape. Measuring and installing the real deal can be time-intensive and tedious, but using paint is an easy way to dress up a space without the cost and labor of installing numerous pieces of trim. From crown molding to wainscoting, using paint to imitate intricate trim work will add high style to your home.

For a stunning makeover, apply FrogTape brand painter's tape three feet up from the floor along the entire wall to emulate a chair rail. Then, add additional squares and rectangles in a repeating pattern below. Apply a fresh coat of paint in a color that coordinates with the original wall color; and once you remove the tape, you'll have crisp lines that look like molding... without all the work.

Next time you're looking to spruce up a space, think beyond painting your walls a solid color. With a little imagination and painter's tape, you can design eye-catching rooms throughout the entire house.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Two-in-one tools for busy moms on the go

(BPT) - Any mom will tell you there are never enough hours in the day to "do it all." Research indicates working moms spend 10 hours more a week multitasking than working dads - making useful, efficient tools Mom's secret weapon for getting more done.

"I multitask from the moment the sun comes up," says Brittany Bailey, busy mother, wife, DIY renovator and the blogger behind "Shaving mere minutes off my day-to-day routine lets me cross more tasks off my to-do list and spend more time with my family."

Whether yours is a family of three or 13, try these multi-functional tools to keep up around the house:

Family room

Whether you're playing educational games with the kids, catching up on emails during nap time or creating a new chill-out music mix, multitasking moms can tackle all of this with a tablet or smartphone - without taking up a lot of floor space in the family room. Refreshing your device with new apps just for the kids can help keep things calm for the long family road trip or the short wait at the dentist's office, too.


Any mom knows keeping the kitchen tidy is a formidable task, with snacks, baking ingredients and trinkets that don't make it into the junk drawer. Consider recycling heavy-duty glass jars for extra storage without adding clutter to your countertop. Empty glass jars look chic on display, but also are hard at work when filled with sugar, cookies or even knick-knacks like keys or change. Because you can see into the jars, you'll always know what's inside.


Dad wants a powerful showerhead but Mom wants a hand shower to spray down messy tots, so who wins? Parents can end the debate with the Delta In2ition shower with H2Okinetic technology. This two-in-one shower system simultaneously offers the comfort of water streaming from a showerhead and a hand shower and uses an internal system to control the droplet size of the water to create the feeling of more water than a standard shower. The embedded hand shower offers the flexibility to accomplish other tasks such as bathing children, washing pets and cleaning the shower. When not in use, it easily slips back into place on the showerhead.

Utilizing two-in-one tools around the house can help busy moms stay ahead of the curve and reserve time for what really matters: quality time with family. If she's lucky, maybe she can even carve out some of that precious time just for her.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Paint trends: Paint and primer in one makes life easier for DIYs

Manufacturers are always looking for solutions to help consumers complete their paint projects quickly and easily with long-lasting results. The latest innovation that is a big hit with homeowners is Behr Premium Plus Ultra Interior, a high-performance product that allows consumers to paint, prime and protect all in one with a new advanced stain-blocking formula. It's the ideal product for everyday use or even for tough, challenging conditions.

"The new formula is an example of our commitment to deliver the highest quality products at competitive prices, giving do-it-yourselfers the power to achieve their vision in every room," said Aimee Desrosiers, Director of Marketing at Behr Paints.

Formulated for the homeowner looking to paint and protect with the added benefit of keeping stains from bleeding through, it is targeted for high-traffic spaces such as family rooms, kids' rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, living rooms and hallways. Other added benefits include a shorter dry time and increased film hardness offering even better durability and a long-lasting appearance.

In addition, the paint is a low VOC, 100 percent acrylic formula with a mildew resistant finish for increased ease-of-mind when painting. "It offers excellent adhesion and ensures outstanding stain, scuff and mar resistance for long-lasting colors and easy-to-clean surfaces," explained Desrosiers.

For more information on the latest paint trends and a robust how-to section visit