How to Decorate Your Kitchen with White Hues

Kitchens decorated with mostly white hues never seem to go out of style but there’s a fine line between white that’s serene and beautiful and white that’s stark and clinical. If you love the color white, here are some tips to make your kitchen modern and sophisticated:

  1. Include a little grey. Choosing a light grey to accompany white in your kitchen will still give your white color some dimension. It’s like a shadow that helps define the white.
  2. Go monochromatic. Monochromatic doesn’t mean using all the same hue. If you look at paint colors, tiles, countertops and appliances, there are hundreds of whites. Each white has an undertone, typically blue or yellow. Choose the shade you like best and make sure all the colors you use are in the same family.
  3. Break it up. White can bring the drama if you have an element like stainless or black matte appliances instead of white. Or choose a backsplash in a color that you can repeat in a fabric like curtains or placemats.
  4. Bring the outdoors in. A great view of side or backyard landscaping can bring a lot of color indoors. And what looks lovelier with the color white than nature’s woods and greens?
  5. Pop your white colors with art. Your only “color” in a white hued kitchen might be a contemporary painting with splashes of red, orange or blue. Accessorize with dishes or enameled cookware to complement other color accents.

How to Challenge Higher Property Taxes

According to the National Taxpayers Union, between 30% and 60% of taxable property in the United States is over-assessed, yet less than 5% of homeowners appeal their assessments.

Your 2020 tax assessment will outline county, city and school taxes, as well as special assessments. Look online or call the assessor’s office for a list of factors used to evaluate properties and render assessments, including time frames. Compare them to your bill and make sure your square footage, lot size, number of bedrooms and baths are listed correctly.

If you can’t find the assessment rate on your statement, call the taxing authority and ask what the assessment rate is for your home’s location. There should also be directions for how to file an appeal, by mail, electronically and in person. You’ll be given a specific time and date for your appeal.

Your Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Realty sales professional may be able to help by providing you with a comparable market analysis of similar homes sold or on the market in 2019. Choose three to five properties with the same age, size, and condition of your home, noting any differences between the homes, such as additions or other improvements.

Your estimated property taxes could be escrowed, but you might owe more. You could also owe less if any discounts available apply to you. Some taxing authorities give seniors, workforce personnel (teachers, police, EMTs and fire personnel) and military veterans a break.


“Flaneur” the Way To Your Next Home

Have you ever taken the time to stroll the marketplace in your neighborhood or the city simply for the pleasure of observation? Then you might be what the French call a “flaneur.”  The flaneur was first described in the writings of 19th century poet Charles Baudelair as one who casually wanders, watches and chronicles the street life they observe. You could try the concept to help you find your next home.

You can wander neighborhoods you’re interested in by car, bus or train, but you can do so much more effectively by foot. Start at places with lots of activity, like shopping centers, business districts or city parks. Try to have no other agenda except to meander and let the sights, sounds and smells of the streets make their impressions on you. Go during the workday, on the weekend and at night. Find a coffee shop or café with outdoor seating so you can sit comfortably and take in the surroundings. Talk with a few residents or shopkeepers to learn more about the area.

Next, walk the neighborhoods that the commercial area serves. What are the homes like? Are they well kept? Are they within walking distance or a short drive to locations you would use, like a school, restaurant or fitness center? 

Your feelings should tell you a lot. Do you feel attracted to the area or indifferent? Do you feel safe, happy and at ease? You’ll soon know if this is a community you want to join.

To learn more about local Northern and Central Virginia communities visit our communities page and search by area, then contact a Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Realty sales professional to explore these communities in greater detail.


What the CMA Can’t Tell You

The comparison market analysis, otherwise known as a CMA, is an analytics tool real estate professionals use to help sellers learn what homes similar to theirs in size, age, and features have sold for, and buyers learn how close to asking price homes have sold for so they have a better idea how much to offer.

A CMA can provide quantifiable commodity details – such as age, square footage, lot size, and location, and number of bedrooms, living areas, and baths. But it can’t tell you the subjective details that make one house more attractive than another similar home, such as how well it’s been updated, landscaped, or maintained.

And that’s where your Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices sales professional can be invaluable. With their market knowledge, neighborhood expertise, and connections, they can provide the house-by-house intelligence you need to make a better-informed decision.

For homes that are listed for sale, your Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices sales professional can show you inside the ones most similar to your home or the home you’re most interested in buying. Homes that have already sold could still have virtual tours and photos that you can peruse.

Your Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices sales professional can also provide you with a detailed market report including graphs and pie charts compiled by the multiple listing service. You’ll learn the current macro and micro market conditions that explain why prices are trending up or down.

The market is constantly changing, and the more you know, the easier it is to reach your buying and selling goals. Contact a Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Realty sales professional to learn more about what your home could be worth in the current market.


Prequalify, Preapprove – What’s the Difference?

Some mortgage terms can be confusing, none more so than the similarities and differences between prequalification and preapproval. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but they mean very different things to lenders, real estate professionals and home sellers.

Prequalifying is a rough-idea process that tells you how much money you’ll likely be able to borrow to buy a home. You can prequalify yourself on any banking or real estate-related website simply by putting your salary, type of loan you want, down payment amount and a ballpark home price into a mortgage calculator. You can talk with a lender, who will also give you a ballpark amount without a credit check.

When you apply for a mortgage loan, you’ll share your income records, the source and amount of your down payment, and your social security number so the lender can pull your credit. This is the key difference between prequalification and preapproval – when the lender is able to review your application and verify your credit standing to make a lending decision.

The lender will get back to you within three days or less with a preapproval letter stating the maximum amount of money you’re approved to borrow.

Preapproval gives you the real numbers so you know exactly how much you can spend on a home. It lends you credibility with real estate professionals and with sellers who will take you seriously as a buyer.

Prequalification becomes preapproval once you have a purchase contract on a home. Then, the preapproval is real.


Build Wealth with a Less Expensive Home

Here’s a case for buying a less expensive home than you secretly want.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spends approximately 37% of his or her income on housing. Notably, the top 20 percentile earners spend only 29.9% of their income, while the bottom 20% pay 39.9%. So what do high earners know that you don’t know?

If you have a little less money invested in housing, you’ll have more money to do other things, like: 

  • Invest more in your 401K or Roth IRAs.
  • Pay extra on your mortgage so one day you’ll be mortgage-free.
  • Save money to buy another property. Rent out the first home for passive income as renters make your mortgage payment for you.
  • Build or add to an emergency fund.
  • Make improvements without adding more debt or tapping into equity.
  • Reduce debt.

Conventional loan guidelines from Hud.gov suggest that the average homebuyer spend no more than 29% of his or her monthly gross income on housing. If your gross monthly income is $4,167, spend no more than $1,208, which should include property taxes and home insurance.

What if you have current debts? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends that your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio be no larger than 43% to secure a qualified mortgage – one the lender has done the due diligence on your ability to repay the loan according to government standards. However, many lenders aren’t comfortable with more than 36% DTI and may charge you higher interest rates accordingly.


FOUR THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU MOVE IN

You’re almost done! All that’s left to do is to pack up and move in to your first real home. Here are a few tips that will make your first day as a new homeowner easier.

  1. Sort your belongings. Moving can be more expensive when you cart along items you don’t really want or need. A great way to do it is to sort and pack at the same time. Think in terms of three piles – keep, donate, trash. Trash the trash and drop the donations off at the first opportunity. Put your “keep” pile into moving boxes labeled by room.
  2. Plan your storage options. Closets, attics and cabinets can fill up quickly, especially if you’re downsizing. Where will the out-of-season sports gear go? What about holiday decorations? What goes in the garage?
  3. Plan your trip. Pack your car with necessities, including first aid, drinks, and snacks. Let each family member choose their favorite items to bring, like blankets, pillows, games, books, and a change of clothes, just in case.
  4. Meet your neighbors. If possible, introduce yourselves to your neighbors before you move. You’ll have a greater sense of belonging on moving day.

Five Safe Strategies for Homebuying

With home prices rising, you may be wondering if now is the best time to buy a home. The answer is always yes but there are ways to buy wisely and safely.

Save for a down payment. The more money you can put down, the better borrowing terms you’ll get on your mortgage. Establish a firm budget. Limit credit card spending and pay down your debts. Put your next raise into savings.

Choose wisely. Your home should improve your lifestyle, but not cripple you with debt. It should serve your household’s needs for at least five to ten years, so consider location, neighborhood, commute times, size, number of bedrooms, amenities and condition.

Buy within your means. Your payment, including interest and taxes, should be no more than 28-30 percent of your gross income or 40-42 percent of your income including existing debt. As your income improves, you’ll be able to meet other life goals, such as growing your family, starting a business, or buying more property.

Buy for the long term. The longer you own your home, the more equity, or ownership, you have and the less you owe the bank. Think of equity like savings you’ll get back when you sell or rent the property some day.

Take care of your property. Keeping your home repaired and updated is the best thing you can do to protect your investment. A home in top condition always sells for more money than homes in less desirable condition.

It always a good idea to research our local communities to get an idea of where you want to live and the price point for the community, then consult with you Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Realty sales professional to map out a game plan.


HIRING AN INTERIOR DESIGNER

Interior designers are degreed and licensed professionals who make your home more functional and beautiful. If your home could use more space, better traffic flow, or an additional room, an interior designer is your answer.  

They save you money. Interior designers can buy appliances, furnishings, and more from “to the trade” vendors. While they charge for their time and/or add a mark up to each item you agree to, you’ll pay about the same for unique wow-factor results as you would for big-box, off-the-shelf items. 

They save you time. The interior designer learns your lifestyle, personal preferences and space concerns. They know the latest products and design solutions, and do the research so you don’t have to.

They help you prevent mistakes. An interior design is like a symphony – every detail should compliment everything else in utility and beauty. Designers give you what you want, but they also expand your tastes.

They have resources. Many design solutions must be customized, so designers have their own go-to teams of contractors, upholsterers, artisans and craftspeople. 

Most designers offer a free consultation to help you decide if you’ll work well together. Contact the American Society of Interior Designers for more information.


THE FAIRYTALE TUDOR

Great Britain’s Tudor reign spanned 1485 and 1603 and was unprecedented in terms of prosperity. International trade led to a great expansion in free-thinking and in home design concepts, including new ideas like the decorative indoor fireplace with a mantle, hand-made rugs from the Orient as table coverings, and built-in cabinets and seating. 

Tudor style is down-to-earth and charming, and many urban homebuyers are enchanted by their asymmetrical designs, distinctive half-timber accents, deeply pitched roofs, leaded glass windows, gables, turrets, and brick or stone exteriors, accented by one or more large brick-patterned chimneys.  The entry is typically a plank style door with a rounded arch and iron hardware. 

Tudor interiors feature lots of wood – wide plank wood floors, wood beams on the ceiling, wood mantles and more. Timber beams on cathedral-style ceilings are usually stained dark in color. Interior walls are textured and painted off-white to mimic plaster. Due to their solid construction, these homes can be easy to update.

Lighten the interior with candlelight bulbs, natural stone floors, colorful rugs and minimal furniture bedecked in plush velvets, tapestries and brocades.

If you believe your home is your castle, the Tudor style will bring you years of comfort and delight.