Buying Your First Home

As newlyweds, buying and settling into your first home is an exciting and nerve-racking experience. Knowing what to expect can help the process go smoothly. From budgeting to renovations, here’s your step-by-step guide to first-time home ownership.

Determine How Much You Can Afford

Before you start your search for the home of your dreams, it’s important to establish how much you can afford to spend.

Examine Your Credit

Like it or not, your credit score has a significant impact on whether you get approved for a mortgage, and it influences your interest rate. Get a copy of your credit report and scour it for errors. Do what you can to improve your score and resolve discrepancies now so when it comes time to get preapproved for a loan, your credit is in tip-top shape.

Scrutinize Your Budget

As a rule of thumb, buyers are advised to spend no more than 25-30% of their household income on housing expenses. Take a close look at your household earnings, as well as your financial obligations, like student loans, car payments and credit card bills. Then, talk with your partner and come to an agreement about how much you can spend on your new residence.

Determine How Much You Can AffordFind A Home & Make An Offer

Once you have a solid idea how much you can afford, it’s time to find a home that meets your needs, your budget and then make an offer.

Get Preapproved for A Loan

You can search online for a loan or go to the institution where you bank and ask about your mortgage options. Either way, having a preapproval letter in hand will help you negotiate from a position of strength when making an offer. Be aware that you may get preapproved for a larger loan than you expected. Stick to your budget and resist the temptation to spend more than you can realistically afford.

Find a Real Estate Agent

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) is a great resource for finding a professional real estate agent in your area. As a first-time homebuyer, you’ll benefit from an experienced agent who can guide you through the home-buying process.

Check the Price of Homes that Appeal to You

Sit down with your spouse and make a list of what you want and need from your new home. Search an online real estate database for homes that match your criteria, then use a mortgage calculator to estimate your monthly payments.

Review Your Lease

If you’re currently renting, take a look at your lease and find out when it expires. Determine what the penalties and procedures are for breaking the lease or extending it as needed.

Make An Offer

Once you find a home that you want, it’s time to make an offer. You don’t want to overpay, but a stingy offer can insult the seller and make negotiations difficult. Consult with your real estate agent, who is likely to have an idea about what price the seller is apt to accept, and then make an offer you can afford. Before you submit your offer, discuss with your spouse what you’ll do if the seller rejects or counters it.

Make Upgrades

Now that you have keys in hand, you’re probably eager to turn your house into a home. Here are a few upgrades to consider tackling sooner than later.

Install A Home Security System

A monitored home security system can make your home three times less likely to be burglarized and save you up to 20% on your homeowners insurance premium. Plus, many systems offer home automation features that can help reduce your utility bills.

Replace the Front Door

Whether your entry door is weak or just downright ugly, replacing it with an attractive steel door is a smart move. A steel door is difficult to penetrate and is energy efficient. Also, if you sell your home, you’ll probably recoup its cost.

Improve the Kitchen

The kitchen is often considered the heart of a home, so it’s only natural to want it to look attractive and feel comfortable. If the cost of a professional renovation is out of reach, DIY projects and tasteful decorating can transform your kitchen in a weekend.

Some Idea For An Ideal Front Door

Your front door serves many important purposes, but sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. Your entry door is one of the first things guests and neighbors see when they drive past or visit your home. Take a good look at your front door and ask yourself a few key questions. Is it serving its purpose and tough enough to withstand wind, rain, hot sun and possible intruders? Is it aesthetically appealing? Is it dated and time to buy a new one?

See why your front door is an important part of your home and the ROI of replacing it. There are a lot of different styles and colors to choose from, so we’ll make some suggestions about what you should be looking for in a new door.

Importance Of A Front Door

What’s the first thing someone sees when they come to your home? Yes, the entry door. Everyone must walk through it to enter your home. It’s important to make sure it’s sturdy and stylish.

Replacing the front door can easily enhance the appearance of your home exterior. Curb appeal is something buyers and neighbors notice. The front door needs to be strong so it can endure all kinds of weather. You also want to make sure the door is functioning as security in order to protect you and your family and keep everyone in the house safe.

Your front door is also a chance to incorporate your personal style and add some flair to your home. Don’t be afraid to go a little outside the box when selecting a new entry door. I’ll cover style and color trends so you can get a feel for what you like.

ROI Of Replacing Your Front Door

Replacing your front door becomes especially significant when you’re trying to sell your house. If you’re thinking about selling, you should consider what statement you want to make with the new updates. Charlette Seidel, a vice president with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate Inc., says that roughly 60 percent of the calls her office receives are from prospective buyers inquiring about a house they saw while simply driving down the street. The homes with curb appeal get the most calls. Homebuyers are usually parked at the front door for a few minutes when the real estate agent is getting them into the home, so this is another instance where the visual appeal of the front door is crucial.

In addition to curb appeal, there are financial advantages to replacing your front door. According to Houzz, “Your front door with an energy-efficient model can add to the overall value of your home, save as much as 10 percent on energy bills, and qualify you for certain tax credits in the United States.” I’m sure saving some money is of interest to most homeowners. Front doors will last a long time if you take care of them. According to the National Association of Home Builders, exterior fiberglass, steel and wood doors should last as long as an overhang is in place. If unprotected or exposed to the elements, the door may last as few as 30 years.


If you decide you want to replace your front door, then you need to get up to speed on the different material options. It’s a good idea to do your research ahead of time and make sure you’re fully informed before making a final decision. Whether you custom design your door or select one from a manufacturer, time, money and material are all aspects to consider in the buying process.

The most important decision in the process is choosing what your door is made of. It’s the surface material that most affects appearance, durability, security and price (This Old House). Average door prices range anywhere from $589 to $916, depending on material and labor costs. See below for a short description of the different styles.


Wood is one of the most common materials for exterior doors. The most common materials for solid wood doors are oak, fir, pine, along with cherry, walnut, mahogany and maple. Wood doors are visually appealing and solid, but remember you’ll need to apply a fresh coat of paint or polyurethane every couple of years.


Fiberglass doors are resistant to warping and bowing. If you live in a humid climate,then fiberglass is an appropriate choice for your home. The fiberglass exterior sheathing is resistant to impact damage. Because it’s less prone to warping, this door is more maintenance free than many other door types.


Steel doors are usually sheathed with 24-gauge steel that comes paneled or flush and in a variety of colors. They’re thought to be strong doors, but in fact, aren’t any stronger than solid wood or fiberglass. They shouldn’t be used on the side of a house where prolonged exposure to hot sun can heat the door. If continually exposed to scorching temps, it will bow and crack the paint.


Aluminum doors include a wood frame with insulation filling the spaces. What’s interesting about aluminum doors is that they’re almost exclusively manufactured and sold locally on a custom basis to fit whatever door opening you have. They dent easily, but won’t rust, and typically have at least a 20-year warranty.


Now onto the fun part, selecting a color for your new front door! The goal here is to make a statement (personalize) and send a welcoming vibe. Don’t be afraid to go bold or colorful, especially if you have a neutral exterior. Even if your neighborhood is conservative, your front door can be your self-expression piece. For example, check out this indigo door, it’s simply stunning against the white exterior!

If you’re not ready to replace your entire front door you may want to at least apply a fresh coat of paint. DIY Network offers up 28 stylish paint ideas to give you some inspiration. See what sparks your interest and have some fun with it!

Let’s Learn Tips and advice before you build a new deck

Are you considering installing a new deck? While adding a deck does add value to your home, most real estate experts don’t recommend installing one for that reason alone. The most important reason for building a deck is simply because you and your family will enjoy it.

Some of the most popular reasons homeowners choose to add a deck include the following:

Added living space: For a small house, a deck is less expensive to install when compared to a new addition. Of course, climate influences how much time the deck can be used. However, even in colder parts of the country, awnings and pellet stoves can make a deck usable almost year round.

Frequent entertaining: For families with an active social calendar, adding a deck makes perfect sense. It decreases wear and tear on carpet and wood floors inside the home, and allows guests to interact in a more relaxed setting. Decks are also great additions for homes with pools.

Love of nature: Getting closer to nature is always popular. Decks added to rural homes give a safe place to enjoy the surrounding woods and wildlife, while decks added to suburban or even urban homes offer homeowners an attractive getaway from the stress of city living.

Deck Materials

For many homeowners, cost is the most important consideration when it comes to building or repairing a deck. This is why choosing the right material is so important. Thankfully, there are more choices than ever before.

Traditional Wood Decks

When many people think of decks, they often think of traditional wood decks. Though there are several different kinds of wood used, the most popular are pressure-treated pine, cedar and redwood.

Pine that’s been pressure-treated is the least expensive. However, it also tends to be the most versatile. Some folks frown on pine because of its tendency to develop uneven color, while others prefer its more ‘au natural’ look.

Cedar is a beautifully textured wood that, while never pressure treated, does resist rot and insects. Many homeowners choose cedar because of its beautiful grain and wonderful, if faint, aroma.

Redwood is popular for rustic homes because of its rich, gorgeous color. Like cedar, it is resistant to moisture and insects with the proper maintenance.

Wood decks do require yearly maintenance to prevent deterioration from sun and moisture. Power washing followed by staining and sealing will keep a wood deck in good condition for years. They should also be checked for loose boards and nails on a regular basis, and any wood that has moisture damage should be replaced.

Composite Decks

Composite decking is made of recycled wood and plastic. The minimal maintenance required has made it a popular choice for decks large and small. When it first came on the market, some homeowners shied away from it because it tended to fade quickly and could harbor mold. The industry has improved in recent years and now offers composite decks that can withstand the assault of sunlight and seasonal changes. For some homeowners, however, the downside to composite decking is its cost. Prices vary of course, but composite decking can easily run two to four times more than regular wood decking.

The Difference Between Good Landlords and Bad Ones

We had an awful time with the last apartment we rented. We were sitting around talking about it with our new neighbors at our new apartment where we think everything is perfect. Our last landlord made us all kinds of promises when we signed the lease. The promises were verbal and not in writing, so we could not prove any of them. That is why as soon as we were reaching the end of our lease, we started looking for apartments for rent in Mission Viejo CA to move to to get away from him.

I remember how he had agreed to fix the kitchen floor and to replace the carpeting in the living room before we moved in. It did not happen. He said he would get it done by the time the next month’s rent was due. He didn’t.

I Found a New Apartment

It was a really lucky thing for me that I ran into a friend of mine from college, who was in a similar situation to mine. One night I was out at this bar and some girl told me about a party down on the periphery of a college campus. It was a pretty wild scene and I ran into Jimmy just as he was about to get his butt beat for hitting on the wrong girl. The other guy thought I might step in. At any rate Jimmy had a nice Oceanside California apartments, but his roommate had simply bailed on him. He thinks that he went back to live with his parents, but he had never told Jimmy anything.

Let’s learn About Real Estate Foreclosure Lists

Q: Why do I have to pay for a list of foreclosure properties? Isn’t this public information?

A: The answer is yes and no. The transfer of real estate property is always recorded in the county courthouse where the property is located. That makes it public information.

A list publisher, or consumer for that matter, must request a list of foreclosed properties from participating lending institutions. Why request? Because there is no law stating that the lender must make this information widely available, just as there is no law requiring you to make public a list of your personal possessions for anyone who may demand it.

You can, if you so choose, visit your county courthouse, go through all the deed and mortgage books and locate one property at a time, those that have been transferred to the lender. This would be an arduous process at best.

Another alternative would be to go to every single auction, in every county you have interest in, and watch which properties go back to the lenders.

So, in buying a list, what you’re mostly paying for is content and convenience. By yourself, it would take hundreds of hours and a lot of money to compile the data you need.

Q: How is it that some foreclosed properties are already sold or otherwise not available on the list I just received?

A: In fairness to all list publishers, many lenders do not update their lists frequently enough. Some real estate properties may already be sold. Some may even have been off the market for quite some time. No list of REO properties can be 100 percent accurate.

Remember, there is no national network. The proper accumulation and recording of this data is an imperfect science. Data quality and integrity is dependent on the source and the method of reproduction used by the provider.

Q: Can’t I just call a bank and get a list of foreclosed properties for free?

A: Yes and no. Most consumers have a difficult time trying to reach the right party at the bank in an attempt to get a list of foreclosed real estate. Some lenders are more cooperative than others.

Citibank, for example, now charges $50 for a list of their properties. While we disagree with this policy, we understand their reason. Too many uninformed buyers call the banks in an attempt to buy properties for 30 cents to 50 cents on the dollar. This charge is most likely an effort to separate the know-nothings from the serious investor. The bank does not want to be bothered by those who do not understand the process or by those who make absurd offers ultimately wasting the banker’s time.

Some Foot Chain Link Fence Cost

Chain link fencing is a popular option these days among homeowners who want to set up a physical boundary around a yard, garden or property without spending a great deal of money in the process. Installing a chain link fence is generally an effective way to keep in outdoor pets while protecting one’s property against intruders. Of course, there are some considerations that any homeowner should keep in mind when it comes to deciding if a chain link fence is the right option.

The Costs

  • The average reported cost per square foot for chain link fencing is $18.
  • Homeowners should not expect to pay more than $21.33 per square foot for chain link fencing.
  • At minimum, homeowners can expect to pay around $16.65 per square foot for chain link fencing.

Advantages of Chain Link Fencing

Any type of home fencing will come with its inherent advantages and disadvantages. The same is true for chain link fencing materials.

One of the greatest advantages of going with chain link fencing is its low cost. Compared to other fencing materials, it is easily the most affordable option, with most homeowners spending less than $20 per square foot for both materials and installation.

Furthermore, chain link fencing is also known for being very durable and long-lasting. While wooden fencing is prone to rotting, insect damage and warping over time, chain link fencing is not susceptible to these potential problems. As a result, homeowners who opt for chain link fencing get to enjoy the added savings of low maintenance. This saves them both time and money as there is essentially no maintenance required for chain link fencing. Some homeowners choose to paint their chain link fences as a way of adding to the aesthetic appeal, but this is only an option and not a necessity.

Disadvantages of Chain Link Fencing

Of course, going with chain link fencing can also come with its possible disadvantages. The main drawback of this type of fencing that some homeowners mention is that of its appearance. While chain link fencing may be very durable and affordable, the fact remains that it is simply not as aesthetically appealing as a wooden fence. For some homeowners, this becomes a deal breaker — especially for those who care a great deal about the home’s curb appeal.

Another potential drawback of chain link fencing is that it can be time consuming to install. This is especially true for homeowners whose properties are uneven or have a lot of hills and slopes. Because each fence has to be custom measured, fit and cut, those with hilly landscapes may have a longer installation process. This often translates to a more expensive installation price in the long run as well.

Cost Considerations

A lot of fencing companies these days have begun to include labor and installation as part of their per-square-foot estimates. However, this is not always the case. As such, it is wise for homeowners to contact fencing companies ahead of time as a way of determining whether or not they include labor and installation as part of the price or materials and tools only. After all, this can make a huge difference in the overall cost of the project. The average installation time for a chain link fence is right around five hours, and the typical cost of such installation is anywhere between $140 and $160. Furthermore, if the cost of tools is not included in the estimate, homeowners can expect to tack on another $20 to the price as well.

Saving on Chain Link Fencing

While chain link fencing is often the most budget-friendly option when it comes to fencing, money-savvy homeowners should take the necessary steps to ensure that they get the best deal on their chain link fencing. This means comparing quotes from various fencing companies in the area to find out which company will offer the best price for the particular project that the homeowner has in mind.

Furthermore, homeowners should take the time to get a good idea as to how many square feet of fencing they will need prior to contacting fencing companies for a quote. This can be done by measuring along the perimeter of the area that needs to be fenced. Furthermore, homeowners should keep in mind that hilly properties may cost more to fence because they will require more materials to get the job done. Homeowners can also save on costs by opting for a 4 Foot Chain Link Fence as well.

Homeowners who plan on selling their homes down the road may also want to look into return on investment costs for chain link fencing. By working with a real estate agent and running comparisons of neighborhood home values, it is possible for homeowners to get a better idea as to what kind of return on investment they can expect on their fence installation projects.

Uses for Chain Link Fencing

There are several uses for chain link fencing that homeowners can enjoy. Among the most common options is for a garden area; this can help to keep unwanted critters and animals from entering into the garden area and ruining plants, fruits and veggies. Furthermore, chain link fencing is often used to solidify property boundaries around neighbors, thus giving homeowners a better sense of security. Chain link fencing can also serve as a great way of keeping pets within the boundaries of one’s property. This is especially ideal for dog owners.

Overall, a chain link fence can be a great decision for homeowners who want an affordable, durable and effective fencing option on their properties. No matter how large or small of an area one is looking to fence in, chain link fencing can help to make it happen on any budget. The key is simply shopping around to find the best deals on pricing.

Boost Your Home’s Resale Value

When it comes to remodeling there are a few general rules that apply to every home. One: it never hurts to upgrade your kitchen or bathroom. Two: focus on improving or increasing your home’s livable space. Three: if you’re going to remodel, make sure you spend the money to do it right.

In a perfect world all of us would follow these rules without exception and our homes would always be up-to-date and designed in accordance with the latest styles and trends. The reality is most of us have to strategically choose what projects to tackle. Often times this means postponing big projects in favor of smaller ones. Fortunately, there are a number of minor remodeling projects that can pay major dividends.

Refinish Your Floors

Wood flooring adds a touch of class and elegance to almost any room. And while wood flooring has many upsides – easy to clean, looks great – it can really show its age if not properly maintained. Over time, your once radiant wood floors can start to look dull and scuffed. But unlike worn carpet that needs replacing, worn down wood floors can be brought back to life by refinishing them. What’s more, refinishing them enhances the value of your home.

Now you might be tempted to go the DIY route and refinish them yourself. However, to ensure the best result it is recommended that you contract the job to a pro. While it might be more expensive, you’ll get the peace of mind that comes from knowing that the job was done right. So, how much can you expect to pay? The average reported cost is around $1,800. To view costs for your area, click here.

Reface Your Kitchen Cabinets

We all know that kitchen remodels yield the biggest bang for the buck. Unfortunately, many kitchen remodels cost well over $20,000. If you want to freshen up your kitchen but don’t want to spend a ton of cash to do it, refacing your cabinets might be the answer you’re looking for, especially if your cabinet frames are in good condition.

Unlike simply refinishing your cabinets, cabinet refacing involves replacing the doors and drawer fronts and veneering the cabinet boxes of your existing cabinets. Cheaper than replacing your cabinets, the average cost of cabinet refacing is around $7,400. For local cost information, click here.

Install a Fireplace

A fireplace adds beauty, ambiance, and warmth to your home. It can also add value. While many prospective homebuyers don’t buy a house based on whether or not it has a fireplace, it could help sway their decision. Of course, few folks add a fireplace with resale value in mind. Most of us do so because a fireplace improves the livability of our homes.

Know About Sheet Vinyl Flooring Prices

Sheet vinyl flooring is very inexpensive compared to most flooring materials. It is much cheaper than wood or tile and in a similar price bracket to linoleum. The most inexpensive sheet vinyl is usually matte and solid off-white. More expensive sheet vinyl will have elegant patterns. The most expensive sheet vinyl is used as a form of synthetic wood, surfaced to look like wood grain under minimal scrutiny.

The Costs

  • Average maximum cost: $3.50 per square foot
  • Average minimum cost: $.50 per square foot

Installing sheet vinyl varies in price with the scale of the job. The more squares of vinyl needed to be cut to accommodate irregularities in the shape of a room, the more expensive the installation is likely to be.


Sheet vinyl is very similar to linoleum. It tends to be significantly more rigid, so it is more frequently sold in sheets and squares rather than rolls. It is sometimes used as a substitute for genuine wood as it is similar in texture to wood with a glossy topcoat. It does not stand up to scrutiny in this regard, however, so this is best used in locations that get minimal foot traffic or in businesses where individuals will not linger long.

Advantages of Sheet Vinyl Flooring

Sheet vinyl flooring is extremely easy to install. It’s possible to find flooring professionals with relative ease, and gathering quotes is a simple exercise. It is also feasible for homeowners to install sheet vinyl flooring themselves. The biggest challenge is cutting linoleum to fit irregular edges, but even this can be done with simple tools.

Vinyl is water resistant, making it a good choice for locations that might get wet such as bathrooms and kitchens. Water that falls on vinyl won’t soak into it as long as the adhesive holding it is in good condition.

Vinyl flooring is significantly resistant to damage. It’s hard to scratch and gouge, and while it is more rigid than linoleum, it isn’t brittle. It isn’t prone to breakage from impact, and it is generally safe to move furniture across it with basic furniture skids.

Finally, vinyl flooring has the advantage of being very easy to clean. Because it doesn’t absorb water, most cleaning solutions are suitable for it. Unlike tile and wood, which can easily be damaged by the use of the wrong tools or cleaning substances, there are few floor solutions that pose a risk to vinyl. Simply using a generic floor cleaner with a mop as directed should be more than sufficient.

Disadvantages of Sheet Vinyl Flooring

If vinyl should suffer any damage or if any vinyl tiles or components are allowed to develop a gap with the underlying floor, it is likely to become a colony for mold. Vinyl, being waterproof, is very good at holding moisture in. Once moisture becomes trapped under vinyl, it’s a fairly simple matter for mold to spread, and it can be very difficult to eradicate mold that gets under flooring. This does not happen with all vinyl floors, but it is a very real concern if the floors are not installed properly.

While vinyl is a very functional material for flooring, it isn’t held in very high regard. It tends to be thought of as “cheap,” and it’s rare to see it suggested in style magazines. It will not do much for the value of a home. Homeowners may wish to look into other flooring solutions if they are interested in making their home more attractive on the real estate market.

Know More About Bitumen Roofing Materials & Cost Guide

For those who want a more durable, lower-maintenance roofing option, the modified bitumen roofing system is quickly becoming the most popular alternative for flat or low-sloping roofs. The modified bitumen roofing system was invented in Western Europe in response to a need for longer lasting roofs that were not prone to quickly drying out, as was the case with traditional asphalt shingles and sheeting rolls. After some years of experimentation, European scientists introduced the modified bitumen roofing material to the commercial market in the 1960s. This roofing system consists of layered bitumen membranes that are mixed with special polymers to give the roofing material properties akin to plastic or rubber.

The Costs

  • Average minimum $2.73
  • Average maximum $5.21

Because of its initial cost and material properties, the modified bitumen roofing system was almost exclusively used for commercial and industrial roofing applications. For example, modified bitumen roofing solutions cost more than traditional asphalt roofing options, but it is well-known for its strength. Reputable manufacturers guarantee the useful life of the roofing systems up to 20 years when properly installed by a licensed roofing contractor. Over the years, advancements in technology and lean manufacturing methods have paved the way for lower production costs of modified bitumen roofing materials. These cost reductions have made the modified bitumen materials attractive for use in the residential roofing market. Homeowners whose residences have sections of flat roofs now consider modified bitumen roofing systems when it becomes necessary to update their roofs.

The cost of modified bitumen roofing sheets depends largely on geographic location and quality of materials. For example, the average cost quotes reflect the rates found on the international market. However, national markets may indicate costs that are up to three-times higher than those of the international market. Reasons for the disparity in costs include the availability of raw materials and manufacturing infrastructure. Another cost consideration is product quality; a cheaper cost could mean a lower-quality roofing material due to inferior raw materials or manufacturing practices.

In addition to the cost of the modified bitumen roofing sheets, those who install the material must have a building permit in most regions. This applies to those who are doing a complete roofing re-install. Usually a permit isn’t required to simply replace small sections of a roof or lay modified bitumen membrane material over existing roofing materials. Modified bitumen roofing systems that require hot processing to secure the roofing sheets to the structure are generally installed by a licensed contractor who has experience working with that specific roofing material. Do-it-yourself roofing installations could save homeowners money. Self-adhesive, cold-processed modified bitumen roofing systems are typically used for these projects. The residential market for modified bitumen roofing materials is still not mature, and most of the big box home improvement stores do not yet carry the roofing materials.


The modified bitumen roofing system consists of six foundational elements.

  • Modified bitumen membranes
  • Insulation
  • Base sheets
  • Adhesive
  • Surfacing
  • Flashing

The modified bitumen membrane sheeting is the main element of the roofing system, and it is made from an infusion of polyester, fiberglass or a combination of both. The insulation layer provides its R value, or thermal resistance, that limits the movement of heat passing between the roofing structure. The base sheets build up the layers of modified bitumen for added durability and strength. The adhesive serves to attach the roofing material to the existing building infrastructure and gives it water resistance for protection against the elements. Surfacing is a compound that is applied either manually or via the manufacturing process to protect the roof against undue wear from ultraviolet light. Flashing is a material that provides additional waterproofing protection around a roof’s perimeter as well as the gaps and seams found near roofing structures.

These materials are usually not readily available at the local hardware stores. To purchase modified bitumen roofing systems or the individual components described above, a reputable roofing materials distributor must be contacted. Although these organizations mostly deal with licensed contractors and provide them with discounts, they give price quotes and may sell the modified bitumen roofing products to the public.

Advantages of Bitumen Roofing

Modified bitumen roofing systems present real estate owners significant advantages for both commercial and residential applications. One such advantage is its longevity. Many traditional asphalt roofing systems experience problems after a 10- to 15-year period, but modified bitumen roofing systems are known to last over 20 years without a lot of maintenance issues. One of the main reasons for the long life of the modified bitumen roofing system is its strength; there are several types of modified bitumen roofing systems that use various polymer mixtures. Each type provides superior strength that contributes to the product’s long wear and low-maintenance characteristics. Although modified bitumen roofing systems are known for their fantastic waterproofing properties, sometimes moisture can get under the bitumen membranes and base sheets to form bubbles. To correct this issue, the bubbles must be cut out and the area repaired with patch-sheeting material.

Besides its well-known properties related to material durability, the modified bitumen roofing system presents contractors with a variety of installation options. Some building owners can opt to invest in a professional installation that involves hot processing and guaranteed work. Other real estate owners can choose to install the modified bitumen roofing material themselves using the cold process method. Instructional materials are available for do-it-yourself roof installers who decide to use the self-adhesive version of the modified bitumen roofing sheets.

Disadvantages of Bitumen Roofing

One disadvantage of the modified bitumen roofing system is that it is only recommended for low-sloping roofs or flat roofs. This limits its application for use on non-factory roofs. Another possible disadvantage of modified bitumen roofing systems is its end-of-life environmental impact. The tough material lasts for years on one’s roof, but it may also prove to do the same in the landfills.

Staging Your Home Costs

When selling a home, first impressions are key. For many potential buyers, the decision of whether or not to buy a particular home is made based on how the space feels and if they can imagine themselves living in the house. For that reason, many homeowners turn to professionals to help with home staging. This process involves an expert opinion and eye when it comes to furniture layout, color schemes and more. Find out what you can expect to pay for a home staging as well as what additional expenses can occur.

National Hire a Decorator for Staging a Home Costs

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How do we get this data? This info is based on 102 cost profiles, as reported by ImproveNet members.

Costs of Hiring a Professional For Home Staging

If you are interested in having your home professionally staged, you will generally need the services of an interior designer or perhaps even a real estate agent with a keen eye for detail and home decor. This professional should spend between two and three hours walking through your home, taking notes and detailing any changes that should be made in order to help you sell your home at the highest price. Then, they should read through these potential modifications with you to clearly explain them all. On average, the cost of professional home staging services will run between $478 and $728.

Cost of Professional Painting Services

It is important to understand that after the home has been staged, it is up to the homeowner, in most cases, to undertake the alterations and upgrades on their own. Busy individuals might prefer to hire professionals for jobs like painting, which can drastically improve the look of any space. On average, expect to pay between $700 and $1,083 to have your living room repainted, but be prepared for that number to change depending on the size and height of the room.

Cost of Lighting Changes

Another common change during the home staging process is to upgrade lighting fixtures. Something as simple as a change of a light bulb can affect the way the space is illuminated, which can have an impact on whether a buyer likes the house. To hire a professional to install a new lighting fixture, be prepared to pay approximately $329 for the labor, the materials and the fixture itself.

Understanding the costs of home staging as well as the related expenses can help homeowners better budget for upgrades when selling their home.

Foreclosed Properties at the Sheriff’s Sale

A sheriff’s sale (or auction) comes at the end of the foreclosure process when the defaulting homeowner can’t repair his financial problems with the lender. About half of our states use the “judicial” process when foreclosing mortgages.

  • This process starts with the mortgage document, a security device used to pledge the property as security against the loan.
  • When a default occurs, the lender will attempt to end the homeowner’s rights of possession to the property. The lender must file suit and prove in court that it has the right to sell the property to recover its loss by virtue of the default and as stipulated in the signed mortgage agreement.
  • If awarded a final judgment from the court, the lender will proceed with the foreclosure and the property will be scheduled for sale.

Foreclosure properties are sold at public auction under the direction of the court in the county where the property is located. The successful bidder becomes the new owner of the property. About 80 percent of the time the successful bidder is the lender, the original mortgage holder. Attorneys will be there to bid on the property for the lender. There will also be investors, onlookers and curiosity seekers observing the proceedings. Occasionally, a lienholder will appear trying to salvage what he can from his claim. Rare but certainly possible, the homeowner may show up to bid on his own property.


The biggest advantage to buying properties at the Sheriff’s sale is the high profit potential. If there is a large difference between the market value of a foreclosed property and its final judgment amount at auction, you can really win big. Typically, the largest cash rewards come from the proper application of this investing method.

Sales are usually advertised 4 to 6 weeks in advance. In some states, this information may be available 6 to 8 months or more before the sale. This gives you ample time to research the property, the condition of the loan and the condition of the homeowner. Why the homeowner? If you can work out a satisfactory arrangement with him, you can save yourself the trouble at the auction. If you meet with the owner and can’t work out a deal, you should at least take careful note of the property’s condition. This gives you a competitive advantage over other auction bidders.

You can go to the courthouse and observe the process as often as you like before going to bid on your foreclosed property. It’s certainly a good idea to familiarize yourself with the auction process. There usually isn’t much competition for foreclosed properties sold at auction. Sometimes no one shows up to bid on a property, perhaps due to transportation problems or inclement weather. This creates fantastic opportunities for the diligent investor.


Buying foreclosed properties at the courthouse can be very dangerous for those who do not do their research properly.

  • The large cash outlay required to buy foreclosed property at the Sheriff’s Sale is the biggest deterrent for most buyers. Certified checks and sometimes cash will be required to bid on properties.
  • You may have to pay off the sale amount within 30 to 90 days. In some states it’s a matter of only days. In Palm Beach County, Florida, the successful bidder must pay for the property in full by 3:00 PM on the day of the purchase. That’s just 6 hours from the time the bidding starts to the time you must pay for the property in full or risk losing your cash deposit.
  • You may not be able to inspect a foreclosed property before bidding on it. In that case, there is little chance you will be able to assess the property damage and replacement costs. This hinders your ability to determine the true market value, your maximum bid amount and your profit.
  • If you are the successful bidder, you may have to evict tenants currently residing in your new property. This could take several months. This also interferes with your plans to repair and quickly sell the property for a profit. This delay increases your carrying costs and erodes your profits.
  • There may be land use problems with a property such as zoning or environmental issues like petroleum contamination or toxic waste. A clue to avoiding a problem property is when the lender’s representative fails to appear or bid on the property. If the lender doesn’t want it, you don’t want it either.
  • Failure to research a property correctly leads many to overbid. Too often properties are purchased for much more than their value. This accompanied by “auction fever,” the tendency to get caught up in the heat of the moment and overbid, results in large over-payments and even larger losses.
  • The most important concern perhaps is the possibility of other liens or judgments. As the successful bidder, you replace the homeowner’s position in the property. Any problems clouding the title are your problems now.
    • This includes other mortgages, mechanics’ liens and taxes.
    • At the sale, the first lienholder can nullify all other liens if he’s the successful bidder.
    • Junior lienholders must buy out senior lien positions and be high bidder to gain possession of the foreclosed property with clear title.
    • The first mortgage holder is not the only one foreclosing properties. If a third lienholder forecloses, the process will not wipe out the first and second lienholders.
    • Buying this property means you buy these liens as well. Typically, first mortgages are the largest liens on the property.

Researching Foreclosed Properties

Follow these steps to ensure you research the properties thoroughly:

1. Perform a title search. The only way to be sure that this is a first mortgage holder foreclosing is through a full title search. The cost of the search is nothing compared to the potential loss from not investigating the condition of the title.

2. Locate properties. Find foreclosure properties that are going to sales or auctions by looking for “Foreclosure Sales” or “Sheriff’s Sales” or “Auctions” in your newspaper, real estate magazine or by contacting the county clerk’s office.

3. Evaluate the properties. Evaluate the foreclosed properties and determine their profit potentials. Do this by determining the market value using comps, appraisals and brokers’ opinion of price. Subtract the default amount from the market value. If there is a significant difference, you may have a winner.

4. Inspect the property. If you can, pay an inspector to inspect the foreclosed property and assess any damages or repairs you must make before re-selling the property. Deduct those expenses from the profit you calculated earlier. If you cannot inspect a property, leave yourself a little extra room and some extra cash.

5. Calculate your profit potential. Start with the price you can sell the property for in good condition. Subtract any repair expenses. From this number, subtract the costs you will incur while holding the property (loan payments, taxes, insurance). Subtract from this the closing costs you will incur when you sell the property, including a broker’s commission if you intend to sell your property through a broker. Locate any other liens or judgments and subtract those amounts from your previous figure. Paying off the liens at a discount is one way to increase your profits, assuming you are the successful bidder.

Your subtotal so far, is your expected sale price of the property, less repair expenses, holding costs, liens and closing costs. This is the “net to you” after you sell. Deduct the default or final judgment amount from your last subtotal. This is your gross profit potential, hypothetically the most you can make assuming all goes well.

6. Determine your maximum bid amount. The lowest you can bid is the final judgment amount. The highest you bid is the “net to you” amount. Any amount over that breakeven point results in a loss. Determine the minimum profit you want to make. Subtract your desired profit amount from the “net to you” figure. That’s your maximum bid amount.

Buying Foreclosures at the Auction

1. Phone ahead. Prepare for the auction by phoning ahead. Make certain that the sale hasn’t been postponed. Determine the requirements for purchasing properties. How much deposit is needed? When is the balance due? What type of payment is required?

2. Attend the auction. Arrive early. Properties are sold very quickly, sometimes within minutes. Register yourself as a bidder if necessary.

3. Pay attention. Listen carefully for your target property to be announced. Observe the bidders. Know your competition. Do not announce your intentions to anyone there. Never bid more than your pre-determined amount.

4. Record your new deed and obtain title insurance. The successful bidder will receive a deed, the type of which depends on who is conducting the sale and state law. Record your new deed and obtain title insurance as soon as possible.

Tips To Adding Value To Your Home

Whether you’re a senior looking to sell your house in the near future or are looking for practical updates that will make it more appealing to buyers later on, there are all kinds of ways to increase your home’s value. Some changes can be made quite easily by homeowners themselves, and certain projects will take no more than a weekend to complete. Other updates are better left to a professional, be it due to safety precautions or special training that’s required to do the job. This guide will discuss the best value-boosting modifications to consider for your home so that when the time comes to sell, you’ll get the highest return on your investment.

Keep in mind that every homeowner’s needs will be different, and you may want to ask a real estate agent or local interior designer to evaluate your home. They can offer valuable insight on the areas of your house that would best benefit from an update, as well as when to preserve the integrity of a particular style of home, some modern renovations may detract from a colonial home’s appeal, for instance. Getting personalized advice about how to best add value to your home is never a bad idea!


An updated kitchen is the number one wish list item for young buyers and an excellent place to start when boosting your home’s value. The best part is that your budget doesn’t have to be a limiting factor. Even small changes can make a world of difference in giving an outdated kitchen a facelift. Of course, if you do have a large budget to work with, you may want to consider investing a good amount in your cooking space.


Consider your basic kitchen hardware: cabinet door knobs and drawer handles. If they’re the same as when you moved in, and especially if there’s visible wear and tear, it’s likely time to switch them out for a fresh, modern look. Changing them is simple and often low-cost. This small change can completely transform the look of your cabinets and create cohesion in the space, particularly if you opt to match the hardware to your appliances.

If your cabinets are in need of more than just a minor update, you can still make alterations to update them without breaking the bank. A good scrubbing is a great first step! Sanding out rough or worn spots, new contact paper lining, and a fresh coat of paint are all simple ways to elevate old cabinets. If the cabinet boxes are in good shape, you can remove and refinish the doors and drawers for a brand new look without the overhaul of a total remodel.

Replacing your cabinets completely might end up being the best option for a particularly worn-out kitchen. Most home improvement stores come with entire units you can install yourself, but it does require significant time and skill, after all, you have to rip the old ones out first! Keep in mind, however, that if your home is on its way to market, it’s wise to be conservative with brand new cabinets. New homebuyers will certainly appreciate seeing an updated kitchen, but they still may opt to make their own changes. Shanty cabinets can be a major distraction to would-be buyers and prevent them from seeing the space’s potential, but you shouldn’t devote your entire budget to new cupboards that may ultimately get altered.


Sink hardware is another easy update to consider. Does your kitchen have:

  • A modern faucet?
  • A spray nozzle for easy dishwashing?
  • A garbage disposal?

Even new drain traps can make an important difference. No one wants to think about years of grime and buildup in their “new” kitchen sink!

If the sink is porcelain or acrylic, consider switching it out for a more durable material like stainless steel for both a practicality boost and an updated look. You also might want to consider the depth and division: if yours is a shallow, single sink, then a deep, double unit is a more modern alternative. Sink installation can be more complicated, so unless you have experience with home contracting it might be best to hire a professional for installation.

You should also check your kitchen plumbing to ensure it’s in good working order, especially if your home is or will soon be on the market. Replace broken hoses, repair faulty disposals, and make any other small fixes, even if they don’t directly affect your way of life right now. It’s better to nip problems in the bud to avoid their escalation, especially in a room you’ll always use. Plus, even if you don’t normally use your garbage disposal, for example, having it operational while still living in your house might end up being a major convenience for you!


A kitchen’s countertops can be a major indication of an older, worn-down space, but it can be a costly update to make. Laminate is one of the least expensive material options, but you lose durability, which could be a significant downside for potential buyers. Ceramic tile comes in all colors and sizes and is easy to clean, though you may want to opt for dark-colored grout to conceal stains. Corian is a great, albeit more expensive, alternative, because while it’s stronger and easier to clean, it can come in varieties that look identical to expensive granite or marble countertops. Consider your budget and how long you’ll be in your home before selling it; if you’ll be living there a few more years, go with what will meet your culinary needs best.

If you do opt to install new kitchen countertops, your main focus in choosing a material should be practicality. Keep in mind your area’s climate. For instance, if you’re near the coast, choose a material that holds up well with high humidity and salty sea air. Most buyers will appreciate something that’s easy to clean, and ideally, a surface that’s at least somewhat heat resistant.

Light Fixtures

A kitchen’s lighting can be a dead giveaway for the era in which it was built. Fluorescent soffit lighting in particular screams the 1970s. A large budget will allow you to update however you like, ideally with a balance of natural, ambient, and task lighting. Undercabinet additions can do wonders for a dim kitchen, especially if there’s little to no natural light to work with.

Because the kitchen is one of the most utilized spaces in the house, it’s also worthwhile to consider making it more energy efficient with lighting. Look for ways to maximize the sunlight it receives during the day, and consider adding a single, bright overhead light for nighttime use. Be conservative with your choice in fixtures if your home is headed to the listings page: buyers tend to be turned off by those that are overly ornate. If your budget allows, have different fixtures linked to different switches so lighting can easily be adjusted according to the task at-hand. Perhaps the easiest lighting update to make is to switch to LED bulbs that not only last longer, but actually use significantly less energy than standard bulbs.


Updates you make to your kitchen appliances will greatly depend on your budget, and it’s important to consider the investment. If you’ll be living in your house for several more years, it’s probably worth it to spend the money to replace an old refrigerator or stove since you’ll use its replacement. Even a new microwave can make an older kitchen look more modern, so if you’ve been putting off replacing yours, it can be a handy home value-booster; best of all, if it’s not mounted, you’ll get the elevated look and still get to keep the unit once you move out!

If you’re not looking to replace the appliances, simply swapping out the front panel of your stove or dishwasher can elevate the room’s overall appearance. Some dishwashers actually come with two-sided face panels that you can easily switch without professional assistance. If you’re buying a completely new panel, stainless steel tends to be one of the more contemporary options.

If you do opt to replace any of your kitchen appliances, look for those that are Energy Star certified. This will keep your energy bills lower while you’re still living in the home and can be incredibly attractive to new homebuyers looking to reduce their carbon footprint.


Bathrooms are often the second most important room to update in the interest of home value. The changes can be as simple as replacing the toilet seat, installing a new faucet, adding modern tap handles, or updating the hardware on cabinets. If the plates on your electrical outlets and light switches are old and dingy, spend a few extra dollars on fashionable new plates for easy accents. If you’re planning ahead, make gradual changes over time so the work will feel a lot less overwhelming. Plus, your wallet won’t face any major blows!


No one wants to see a dirty bathroom floor, especially in a home they’re contemplating buying. Replacing it is actually a lot easier these days than it used to be. Many vinyl tile coverings can be fitted directly over existing floor. Half-bathrooms can even be fitted with laminate or hardwood, but for full bathrooms, you’ll want to ensure the material is water-resistant and won’t warp from humidity in the air.

If a new floor isn’t an investment you can make, a major scrubbing might be enough to make bathroom floors look like new again. Make sure to wear protective eye and breathing gear as needed, especially with bleach products. You can hire a maid or cleaning service to do the job for you if you have limited mobility, depending on the size and number of bathrooms, you’ll likely only need to hire them for a few hours at most.

Countertops, Cabinets & Storage

Bathroom counter trends have seen significant changes in recent years, with a shift away from tile and toward materials like marble, granite, and quartz. Laminate is a low-cost option that can give a truly elevated look, but it isn’t always incredibly durable against heat and humidity; if you’re not planning to sell your home anytime soon, it may not look very new once the house does go on the market. As with the kitchen, the bathroom should have an easy-to-clean surface.

Your options for updating bathroom cabinets will be similar to those for the kitchen. Scrubbing the interiors and re-lining surfaces with fresh contact paper can be low-budget wonders. Refacing the outside can be as detailed as you like, from new hinges to a fresh coat of paint to stenciled accents. Decorate with neutral tones and simple features; the goal is to create a soothing atmosphere.

Make sure each bathroom has adequate storage that allows you to keep the space organized and clutter-free. Adding a small pantry or hanging cabinet can help maximize the space, but make sure you don’t store anything heavy up high and create a hassle for yourself in the process. Some people prefer to keep their storage completely out of sight, but others embrace the chance toget creative by repurposing other items and making the storage double as décor. Do make sure you keep the floor clear of as many tripping hazards as possible, especially in small bathrooms.

Showers & Bathtubs

Again, the first step is to give your shower and tub a good, thorough cleaning (or hire a cleaning service to do so). The cleaning process might even give you insight into smart updates to make: if, for example, you realize what a hassle it is to clean around the grout of tiny tile, perhaps switching to large subway tile can give the space both a color boost and make it easier to maintain. Keep in mind that buyers will be looking with a critical eye, so the more “cons” you can keep off their list, the better!

Replacing tile can be costly and usually requires the hiring of a professional. Instead, re-grouting and replacing chipped tiles can help give your bathroom a fresher appearance. Installing a shower door in place of a curtain can not only reduce the tripping hazard for you now, it can add a permanent sophisticated touch.

A new shower head, a contemporary faucet, and new handles can also help modernize even the most old-fashioned of bathrooms. Don’t underestimate classic looks, however, especially with pedestal sinks and clawfoot bathtubs. Replacing worn items is still important, but don’t choose modern hardware if it will clash with the tub it’s going on.

For those with large budgets, consider installing a walk-in shower. A wide enough space will make it wheelchair friendly should you need it now or as you age, but keep in mind the lip should be flush to the bathroom floor. Not all potential buyers will want to completely lose their bathtub, especially in master bathrooms, so consider hiring a contractor to install both a walk-in shower and an adjacent tub if you can.

Closets & Storage

Adding storage to your home can make your life a lot easier now, as well as add important value to your home in the long run. Budget will play a major role in the kinds of expansion you can make, but every minor improvement can make a difference. Seek every opportunity to create more storage space in every room, especially bedrooms.

Many homes, both old and new, have opportunity when it comes to storage. If you have the budget and space to create a few extra closets throughout your home, take advantage. It can be an especially beneficial addition to a den. Adding a closet means creating an extra bedroom.

A walk-in closet is a luxury many people dream of, and often a detail included in real estate listings. Rolling pocket doors can be a major help in maximizing the space, and shelving both above and below clothes rods can allow for even more storage. And don’t forget the lighting. A simple hanging fixture or several bright sconces can both brighten and elevate the look!

For the closet space you currently have, organize and maximize it. Installing new shelving is a straightforward task if you’re handy, and even just adding a few additional shelves in underused space can make a big difference. If you’re a novice, it’s better to hire a professional for this task; if the shelves aren’t installed correctly, they could collapse and cause expensive damage to the wall.

Bedroom, Living Room, Common Areas & Other General Considerations

While there’s no need to remodel your entire home prior to selling, there are a few considerations to keep in mind with the rest of the home. Start by making sure furniture and décor allow for sensible pathways throughout the home, creating as much open space as possible. Mirrors can be an excellent way to make small spaces look bigger while still being a pleasant accent to a room or hallway. Lighting should also be evaluated throughout the home; the brighter the home, especially in natural light, the better!

As you start to look ahead to selling your home, consider painting bedrooms, hallways, and living areas in neutral tones if they aren’t already. Your entire home doesn’t have to be bland and colorless, but opting for pops of color with your décor and furniture may be wiser. Buyers like to imagine their own touches being added to the houses they visit, so you want to make it easy while still presenting them with a cozy environment.

Replacing old carpet tends to be a given when it comes to selling your home, and you might want to consider opting for a different surface altogether. Laminate or hardwood floors are not only beautiful, they’re easier to clean and don’t have the tendency to hold allergens like carpet does. Additionally, choosing these materials instead of particularly hard ones like granite or marble makes it easier to move around as you age, especially as your mobility needs evolve, with less danger of serious injury if you do fall.

Popcorn ceilings are another telltale sign of your home’s age and can be a serious turnoff for buyers. They’re relatively easy to remove yourself, but because the process requires extended periods standing on a high ladder while scraping, you’re better off hiring a professional. Make sure you’re aware of your home’s risk for asbestos and advise your contractor as necessary.

Find opportunities to make your home more energy efficient, be it with a new, Energy Star certified central air conditioning system or re-insulating exterior doors. Ceiling fans are an excellent way to keep homes cooler in the heat without driving up electricity costs, while thick-paned windows can better preserve heat in the winter. Self-regulating thermostats are slowly becoming an expected quality, and some models can even synch to a smart home system. Don’t go too overboard with specialized technology modifications, however, as the rate of new advancements can make them obsolete in just a few years.

Finally, don’t be afraid to make aging-in-place modifications to your home. Accessible homes will be appealing to other seniors looking to buy, those with disabilities, and families with an aging loved one to care for. Many alterations can even help guarantee the safety of small children, adding textured gripping to the shower floor, for instance.


Finally, don’t forget the first thing potential buyers see: your home’s exterior. Perhaps the easiest way to identify opportunities is to stand outside and view your house with the critical eye of an inspector: Is anything broken? Does anything immediately look old? Is your yard attractively decorated and well-kept? Again, simple changes can make an important difference, but there are a few major ones to consider, as well.

An often overlooked quality to consider changing in your home is the garage door. If it’s broken, dented, rusted, or otherwise visibly aged, replacing it can bring as much as an 84% return on investment. Simply adding a fresh coat of paint in a neutral, inviting color can help your house stand out in a good way if your budget is limited, and can be completed in the course of an afternoon.

Your home’s entryway is another important consideration. You want potential buyers to feel eager to enter your home, so creating a beautiful pathway to the front door can be all the difference. Stone pathways, especially those with decorative inlays, offer a beautiful, memorable entry. Take the material you use into special consideration, avoiding those that will be especially slippery in the rain and any with uneven surfaces; not only is this a walking hazard for you, it might be a turnoff to parents with young children still learning to walk or buyers with mobility issues.

Make repairs and improvements to any windows, shutters, siding, and exterior doors that are easily visible from the street. A single broken window frame can be a distracting eyesore, and loose or crooked shutters immediately make a home look worn down. Depending on the age of your home and the kind of damage, many repairs may be simple to complete. For lengthier processes, however, take into account how much time you’ll spend outside in the elements and consider hiring a professional for big projects; dehydration can be especially tricky in older adults, so leaving the manual outdoor labor to others is often wise.

There’s no need to completely restructure your yard’s landscape, but making some aesthetic improvements can really elevate your home’s curb appeal. Adding evergreen shrubs and a few potted plants are simple, easy-to-maintain improvements that can beautify just about any yard. Planting a shade tree in the front or backyard can give you a cozy spot to picnic under, and placing it strategically can even keep your house cooler and reduce energy costs. Fill in bare patches in the grass as you see them, and keep your lawn trimmed and weeded.