Styling Your Home for an Open House (Even if You Aren’t Having One)

Do you ever look at glossy pictures in magazines, or layouts on sites like Houzz.com, or wander through an Open House just for inspiration, and turn several shades of green — none of which are flattering? Of course none of those gorgeous rooms look like that every day with the family coming and going, kids doing homework at the dining room table, and pets curling up on the vanilla colored sofa. But if you want a home that looks that great even part of the time you need to apply a few tactics that are a professional home stylist’s stock in trade.

Too Much of Anything is Just Too Much

One reason those rooms look so lovely is that there is nothing in them that doesn’t serve a purpose of form or function. We go through the rooms in our own homes many times a day — until we no longer really see the items that have accumulated in them. So we don’t notice when the little touches turn into overwhelm and clutter.

Try starting with one room and removing everything that isn’t essential to the room’s function. Get a feel for the lines of the room with only the basic furniture in place. Add one or two pieces at a time. Try bringing in items from other rooms. Leave the room frequently and enter again, paying attention to how your eyes and mood respond to the arrangement. Don’t be afraid to leave a spot bare for a day or so if you aren’t sure what belongs in the space. If you have a hard time deciding what goes and what stays try putting anything that doesn’t seem to work now in the basement, or the junk room, or even in a storage unit if necessary. You’ll never achieve that soothing sense of order if there is too much “stuff” in the space.

Pair it, Group it, and Get it Away From the Walls

You’ll notice that those pictures show most living areas with the seating positioned away from the walls and grouped invitingly so that you can just imagine sitting down for a cozy chat with your bestie.  Believe it or not, that arrangement isn’t just inviting, getting the furniture off the walls makes the room look larger too.

Light it Up

Many of those beautifully staged homes look welcoming because they’re properly lit. Try increasing the wattage in your lamps and fixtures — the best standard is a total of 100 watts for each 50 square feet. And use a combination of ambient light, which usually comes from the overhead fixtures, task lighting, which are pendants or under the counter lights designed to illuminate a work space, and accent lighting, which you can achieve with wall sconces, floor lamps, and table lamps.

Use Color Wisely

Color is a wonderful way to express your personal taste, but it has many effects on space that we don’t take into account when we’re looking at a tiny paint chip. It can make rooms appear larger or smaller, warmer or cooler, richer or (no, not poorer) more casual. It’s hard to go wrong with midtone neutrals — think mocha, greyed beiges, soft blue-greens, or honeyed creams. If you want a small room to appear even larger choose a color that is very close to the color of the room it opens into. If you want it to look larger still match the window treatment to the walls. This method creates a sophisticated backdrop for artwork or personal items that add a pop of color and personality.

However, rooms that you want to have that intimate, cozy feeling can definitely do with a deeper tone. A bedroom or guest bath, for instance, might get that polished nest look from reds or purples. A small accent wall is a good place for a contrasting color, especially if it has windows, a fireplace, or built in bookshelves that break up the color.

Use Fabrics to Tie it Together

Texture, color, and definition of space can all be achieved with the addition of area rugs. Establish a seating area by arranging the furniture at the edges of a woven rug. Add cushions or upholstered chairs and foot rests. Recover the seats on a row of bar stools with a nubby fabric in contrasting colors. Use place settings or runners on the dining table. No matter how you choose to use it, fabric is a great way to add personality without overwhelming the space.

Whatever your personal style or budget, using even a few of these techniques can turn your dream home even dreamier.

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We’re here if you need to close on your dream home fast (we are, after all, the “home of the 8 Day Close”) and we can help you get the right mortgage for you even when your credit isn’t great. Call your local office, or fill out our easy on-line form, to get one of our licensed loan officers working on the right financing to get you into the home of your dreams!

Missouri: 314.839.9999
Kansas: 913.344.9999
Colorado: 303.740.9999
Illinois: 618.839.9999
California: 866.774.8999

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8 Easy Ways to Spruce Up Your Outdoor Space on a Budget

Outdoor living spaces add possibilities and enjoyment to your dream home. If you didn’t get the ideal outdoor space when you bought your dream home, it can be easy to let the cost of creating that out of doors dream get a little out of hand. Here are tips for making your outside living space as inviting as your living room, without taking out a loan. (Of course, if you’re ready for BIG projects, using the equity in your house to take it on is often a smart move, but that’s a different conversation.)

Focus on the Front Door

We know that the best investment you can make in the value of your home (surprisingly) is replacing the front door. But to give your home a brighter, and well, homier, feel set aside a little bit of your budget for the space people experience when they first approach your home. A coat of paint in a signature color, an urn or pedestal pot with a selection of flowering plants and drapey ferns, or even a rocker or bench with a cushion in outdoor friendly fabric, will go a long ways toward creating a smile-inducing approach to your indoors.

Plant Stuff

Landscaping with shrubs and perennials can get pricey. But bright, cheerful annuals will lift your spirits for a lot less. Use metallic finish spray paint to make cheap, plastic pots look more luxurious (with the added benefit that you won’t have to empty them to keep them from cracking in the winter like you would with terra cotta or ceramic.) Fill them with petunias or vinca, sweet potato vine or asparagus fern, or go for bold with cockscomb and marigold mixes. Zinnias and cosmos will nod happily in a sunny spot, and if you love the romance, fragrance, and practicality of herbs, you can fill your pots and side beds with everything from basil and rosemary to lemon verbena and bright red bee balm.

Light up the Night

Solar powered options abound if you want to add some night time romance or drama to your outdoor spaces. From fairy lights to path illumination, you won’t need an outlet or a lot of money to turn on the light.

 Turn up the Heat

Whether your evenings are still a little crisp or you want to roast hot dogs and marshmallows without building a bonfire, a fire-pit adds ambiance and practicality. You can purchase a small one for very little money, or you can build your own custom firepit, for about the same investment and more ingenuity and elbow grease.

Made in the Shade

Sunny spots are great, but too much sun will drive you indoors. To enjoy your outdoor spaces even more, and add interest and color to the decor as well, think about bright umbrellas or a pergola covered in vines. Either will give you a refuge from the sun and a focal point to arrange your space around.

Peace Out

The sound of moving water and the glimmer of light as it is reflected from a pool, stream, or fountain adds a soothing, seductive element to your space. Tranquility fountains can be small and free-standing, placed in a pot surrounded by plants or on a table top. If your space lends itself to a larger, in-ground fountain, there are projects that stay within a frugal budget or you can keep an eye on second-hand stores and buying sites.

Colorful and Cushy

No matter what seating you’re already using for your outdoor living space (and there are inexpensive options there too) adding colorful pillows not only makes it more attractive, it also makes it more comfortable. If you’re handy with a sewing machine, you can get pillow forms and choose your own fabric at an outlet, like fabric.com, but if you aren’t watching for sales, pick up a few here and a few there. The nice thing is that mix and match don’t have to match perfectly, so you can spread your budget out on this one.

Take a Look Underfoot

While rugs are certainly a wonderful way to add texture and definition to outdoor spaces, they aren’t the only way. Consider using stained concrete stepping stones (make a fun project of finding molds around the house) or undertake a project like painting existing concrete of your patio.

The best part is you can make a wish list and cross it off a little at a time all spring and summer long, making your space more comfortable and inviting with every little thing you do.

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We’re here if you need to close on your dream home fast (we are, after all, the “home of the 8 Day Close”) and we can help you get the right mortgage for you even when your credit isn’t great. Call your local office, or fill out our easy on-line form, to get one of our licensed loan officers working on the right financing to get you into the home of your dreams!

Missouri: 314.839.9999
Kansas: 913.344.9999
Colorado: 303.740.9999
Illinois: 618.839.9999
California: 866.774.8999

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Four Reasons You Might Want to Plan Your Summer Vacation Right Now

If you’re like most of us you’ve barely gotten used to the idea that Spring has sprung and with the end of the school year, graduations, and so on you haven’t given much thought to Summer. But if this is your year for the “vacation of a lifetime,” the year when you take the kids to Europe, or even the Great Lakes — to visit Harry Potter, or even grandma, then there are four good reasons to get those travel plans mapped out now.

Flight Fares Follow Oil Prices

Back in January we started seeing articles like this one from NPR that suggested that air fares would be dropping through the spring season. And that window is closing. So plan that trip and book those tickets soon!

Give You and Your Family Time to Get it Together

Once you’ve decided on where and when there’s still likely to be a lot of decisions to make around “what.” Planning activities for even two people can involve some juggling and compromises, and if your family involves kids, grandparents, cousins, or friends the list of activities you’ll be trying to fit into your trip just got longer.

Making those decisions early also lets you lock in the things that matter most. If your goal is to visit a particular restaurant or spa or go on an excursion you’ll have time to make those reservations. If your family prefers to stay in a vacation home or resort rather than a typical hotel you’ll want to choose and reserve those accommodations early on.

Reduce the Stress of Last Minute Details

If you’ve ever ended up getting so stressed and tired getting ready for a vacation that you couldn’t really enjoy the vacation you’re not alone. Especially if this is “the year” for the vacation you’ve dreamed of and never taken you don’t want to spoil it by leaving things to the last minute.

Although you could wait until August to plan your dream vacation, having flights, accommodations, and the big activities already confirmed is like the old story of the time management guru who used a jar and a pile of rocks, gravel, and sand to demonstrate the importance of putting the big things in first. If the rocks go in first the gravel and sand will fit in around it, but if you let the gravel and sand get into the jar first it take a lot of work to force the rocks into the jar. So get the biggies locked down and keep your stress to a minimum.

Don’t Stress About the Money Either

We’re not suggesting that “money is no object” or that you should just spend it now and worry about it later. But instead of thinking about how much you can responsibly budget using credit cards you might ask yourself, “Is there money in my house?”

Why? Because how else can you finance your dream vacation and write the interest off of your taxes? Unless you are calling it a “business trip” chances are that an equity loan is actually the most responsible line of credit you can tap into. (Of course, we aren’t your tax accountant, maybe you CAN call it a business trip and maybe you can’t write the interest off of your taxes, we’re just speaking in generalities here.) But even though we took a humorous approach in our ads, the fact is that the equity in your house is a great way to get the money for most of the things you would finance. Including the vacation of a lifetime.

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We’re here if you need to close on your dream home fast (we are, after all, the “home of the 8 Day Close”) and we can help you get the right mortgage for you even when your credit isn’t great. Call your local office, or fill out our easy on-line form, to get one of our licensed loan officers working on the right financing to get you into the home of your dreams!

Missouri: 314.839.9999
Kansas: 913.344.9999
Colorado: 303.740.9999
Illinois: 618.839.9999
California: 866.774.8999

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5 Ways Going Green at Home Can Leave More Green in Your Wallet

Earth Day isn’t the only day to think about going “green.” In fact, paying attention to ways you can conserve water and energy not only benefits our one and only planet, it can also result in lower household bills.

Better Water, Less Waste

Bottled water is convenient, but it’s expensive and those plastic bottles and their matching caps aren’t doing the planet any good either. You can install a faucet-mounted or inline water filter for about $30, but for really good tasting water you probably want to consider a reverse osmosis system. An under the sink model costs about $300, but even if you put in a whole house system, if you plan to be in your home at least another 5 years, you’d be saving about $200 a year over what the typical family of four spends on bottled water.

Clean Doesn’t Have to Cost so Much

The average family washes dishes and clothes almost every day. And those two tasks offer several opportunities to save cash and the planet. While washing dishes by hand might feel “righteous,” it uses almost twice the water and energy of washing the same dishes in a fully loaded dishwasher. And don’t waste water by rinsing before loading unless your dishwasher is an older model.

Front-loading washing machines use less than half the water traditionally used by a top loader for a full load, and many of them will handle larger laundry loads too. Plus, they require less detergent to get the job done. You can also save a buck for every four loads you wash on cold instead of using hot water.

Of course, using newer appliances with better energy ratings will pay off as well — for your pocket and the planet.

Light it Up for Less

Replacing your light bulbs with Energy Star-rated CFL bulbs can save you about $30 off your electric bill for each bulb over its lifetime because they use 75 percent less energy and last 10 times longer than standard bulbs. And installing dimmer switches (and using them) can also reduce your electricity usage.

If you really want to brighten your rooms and save cash over the long game, think about adding skylights or expanding your windows. If you choose energy efficient panels and have them properly installed, you won’t lose on the insulation factor, and you may find yourself being perfectly comfortable not turning on lights during the day at all.

Keep Your Cool, Save on Cash

Most of us have the best intentions of resetting the thermostat at night or while we’re out of the house during the day, but how often do we really remember to do it? Installing a programmable thermostat has been shown to reduce energy bills by $150 a year.

We don’t usually think about what is outside when we’re looking for ways to save on the comfort inside. But planting trees that shade the south and west sides of the house (and hopefully the air-conditioning unit as well) can save you money and extend the lifetime of your unit.

You Can Go Greener Outside Too

Speaking of the outside, think about adding a rain barrel or even a gray water system for keeping your landscaping watered during the dry months. And to have a lawn that requires less water, and less fertilizer as well, use a mulching mower instead of bagging your clippings. A good mulching mower will cut the pieces of grass into fine clippings that are easily broken down to release the nutrients back into the soil. These tiny particles also reduce evaporation of moisture from the lawn and keep the soil temperatures cooler. Plus, you won’t be paying to bag your clippings or adding them to landfills.

Whether you make a big change, or a few small ones, this is the perfect time to go green, and save some green for things you really want — like a kitchen remodel or the new deck and hot tub!

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We’re here if you need to close on your dream home fast (we are, after all, the “home of the 8 Day Close”) and we can help you get the right mortgage for you even when your credit isn’t great. Call your local office, or fill out our easy on-line form, to get one of our licensed loan officers working on the right financing to get you into the home of your dreams!

Missouri: 314.839.9999
Kansas: 913.344.9999
Colorado: 303.740.9999
Illinois: 618.839.9999
California: 866.774.8999

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6 Blogs To Follow If You Love Your Home

Whether you’ve just moved in or have been calling the same house “home” for years, there’s a good chance you still have improvements or redecorating you’d like to get done. Exciting projects never seem to be in short supply when you own a home!

In thinking ahead to spring cleaning and maybe even some spring renovations, we’ve compiled a list of six blogs that will get you in the mood to finally make your house a home you can fall in love with.

Style by Emily Henderson

Looking for a traditional interior decorating blog? Then you should definitely head on over to Style by Emily Henderson. Each post is by Emily and has her unique and welcoming approach to design. There’s plenty of practical advice you can put to use in your own home, as well as gorgeous photos, to plan your dream design style. We particularly love this post with different designs for organizing a bookshelf.

TRNK

If you’re a guy who’s looking for a more masculine take on interior design, look no further than TRNK. Their blog includes interviews with well-known men in a variety of fields and gives you an inside look at their homes and interior design style. The photography is gorgeous, the interviews are well-written, and you can be sure to walk away with fresh inspiration for your home. This piece on menswear designer Ian Velardi showcases a clean and stylish NYC apartment with great ideas for decorating smaller spaces.

Design Milk

If you love well-designed homes, products, and art, you’re going to love Design Milk. Their interior design blog will give you everything from furniture hacks to color scheme inspiration. You’ll also find their architecture and home sections feature blogs that will open you up to new designs and possibilities.

Dwell

This blog lets you easily sort posts based on topic or even the room, which is a huge plus. Really needing ideas to help you fall in love with your kitchen again? Well, Dwell has you covered. Want to revamp the patio? They’ve got that too. Not only do they have a wealth of articles on all home topics, but their blogs are easy to read, inspiring, and full of pictures that will take your breath away.

It’s Great to be Home

Looking for first-person advice on improving your home? This blog does a great job of showing what’s possible, both good and bad, when it comes to home improvement.

Manhattan Nest

Want to know what it takes to renovate a home? Manhattan Nest gives you an inside look at multiple home renovation projects, with plenty of problem-solving tips and amazing transformation photos to keep you motivated.

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We’re here if you need to close on your dream home fast (we are, after all, the “home of the 8 Day Close”) and we can help you get the right mortgage for you even when your credit isn’t great. Call your local office, or fill out our easy on-line form, to get one of our licensed loan officers working on the right financing to get you into the home of your dreams!

Missouri: 314.839.9999
Kansas: 913.344.9999
Colorado: 303.740.9999
Illinois: 618.839.9999
California: 866.774.8999

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