Smart Tips for Decorating Your Apartment on a Budget

Following simple guidelines can help you decide when to splurge and when to save when decorating your apartment.

Decorating a new apartment can quickly go from exciting to overwhelming, especially if you’re on a tight budget. As a renter moving into a new apartment, you want to make your place feel like your own home, but without spending a ton of money every time you move. Herein lies the eternal rental decorating dilemma: Which items should be higher quality, and where can you get away with more frugal options? If you follow this set of savvy furnishing guidelines, your temporary digs can look great without breaking the bank.

Here are some rules to decorate by.

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Choose quality when it affects your quality of life.

While it’s tempting to buy items at the lowest prices possible, you also want your purchases to add value to your life. So it’s worthwhile to invest money into certain furnishings while being more thrifty with others.

Save on: Decor

All home decor has to do to make your life better is look good. It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to do it. You can find just about any style of wall hanging, throw pillow, or faux plant at discount retailers like Target or Ikea. Or find something truly original at consignment and thrift stores. “Go to a second-hand shop, choose pieces you like, refinish them yourself, and update the hardware on it,” says Debra Duneier, New York City interior designer and owner of EcoChi. “It’s good for the earth and your budget.”

Splurge on: Your mattress set

Great sleep is vital for a healthy body and mind, and purchasing a great mattress makes that possible. Buy one that’s new and high-quality, and it will last at least a decade. Though mattresses can be pretty costly, you can still find ways to get a good one at a decent price.

“Find name-brand mattresses at outlet stores, and look for sales at certain times of the year,” Duneier suggests. You can also test drive a mattress in a store and then bargain shop online.

 

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Accent pieces are optional, good furniture is not.

Since you’re not buying for the long-term as a renter, you don’t want to compromise your savings when putting together your temporary home. But there are some items you don’t want to buy cheap, because cheap usually means flimsy, and you’ll end up having to re-buy them every time they fall apart.

Save on: Curio cabinets, end tables, and window treatments

Furniture that doesn’t do heavy-lifting, like end tables or display cabinets, can be less high-end. This is especially true for items you know you won’t reuse in your next apartment, like curtains or blinds.

“Whatever you buy for your windows, you probably can’t take with you because windows are a different size everywhere you live,” cautions Duneier. “But, you can find knock-offs of the latest styles, which saves you money,” she adds.

Splurge on: High-use furniture

Sturdy furniture made with quality materials is imperative for anything you’re going to sit or lie on every day, such as the bed frame for your master bedroom. If they need to support your weight and abuse day in and day out, be willing to shop for quality materials and construction—and to pay for it.

 

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Cater to your unique lifestyle.

Do you have kids or pets? Will you entertain a lot or spend most nights out on the town? Do you travel for work, or are you a work-from-home warrior? The answers can affect which items you should splurge on.

Kids? Splurge on: Fabric-covered furniture

With kids or pets, “make sure you buy darker, durable fabric that’s stain- and spill-proof,” Duneier states. To determine if something will stand the test of time, ask lots of questions in the store, read online reviews, or buy and test something that has a good return policy.

Work from home? Splurge on: Office furniture

If you work from home, spend money on your office chair, Duneier advises. You clock lots of time there, so you should make it comfortable. Ergonomic chairs and computer stands are critical to avoiding injuries.

Never entertain? Save on: A dining set

While an expensive dining set might be the best investment for a frequent entertainer, if you don’t do much hosting, your dining area might not get much use. If you typically eat out or in front of the TV, you can get away with a dining room table that will last you through your next apartment, rather than your next decade. After all, your next apartment might not even have a separate dining area.

 

Post found on trulia.com

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Raising Rent Without Feeling Guilty

Year-over-year inflation means that raising rent is inevitable for most landlords. However, it can be hard to pass the financial burden along to tenants, especially if they’re long-term and have a good track record.

Here are three ways to increase rent without resentment:

  1. Add a clause in your initial rent agreement.

    Telling tenants ahead of time that rent will increase 2-3% each year is a good way to alleviate any shock that comes from raising the rent when their lease expires. If they ask, explain that a small increase each year helps cover taxes and minor repairs.

  2. Include details in a letter.

    Typically landlords send out a letter at the end of a lease to renew or go month-to-month. This is a good time to introduce the new rent price and explain your reasons. Did you install new countertops or upgrade the storage in your building? Make sure your tenants know that!Pointing out improvements can help take away the sting a price increase, and helps tenants feel confident that their money if going back into improving the living conditions.

  3. Keep rent raises to a minimum.

    In the case of owner-occupied buildings, many landlords choose to take a low maintenance and reliable tenant over a small increase in rent each month. If you’re in it for the long-haul, it might not be worth it to potentially drive good tenants out. However, if you make the yearly increases small there’s a very good chance they’ll stick around.

  4. Distribute the costs.

    If you feel uncomfortable about raising the rent with a monthly fee, you can always consider changing how you charge for utilities. For example, if you currently cover water and electricity, inform the tenants that they will now be in charge of paying the bill and include it in their new lease. This is an especially good option if part of the reason you need to increase rent is higher utility bills.

Post found on fourwalls.rentler.com

8 Home Decor Trends That Will Be Out in 2018

Millennial pink, two-toned cabinets, and brass hardware are all going to have a serious moment in 2018. But, similarly, there are plenty of trends also on the decline. We asked some of our go-to designers and experts from Trulia’s Design Panel to fill us in on which decor trends are losing steam. While we may not agree with all of them (say it ain’t so, granite!), we understand why some people are moving away from these styles.

 

1. Exposed Lighting
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Edison bulbs and exposed track lighting have been one of the biggest trends in lighting in recent years, but designer Hannah Crowell of Crowell & Co. told Trulia it’s finally time to let it go. “I am a lover of all things vintage and appreciate a nod to the past, but it just became too overly saturated,” Crowell says. David Charette of Britto Charette agrees: “There’s no reason to have exposed track lighting; it can be recessed in drywall for a much cleaner and aesthetically pleasing look.”

 

2. Granite Countertops
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Even though this material is in just about every kitchen these days, people are starting to favor countertops that are more versatile and low-maintenance, like quartz. “Granite is durable, I will give it that, but it lacks the beauty of marble or the sleekness of quartz,” Crowell told Trulia.

 

3. Bamboo Flooring

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Simply put: “Bamboo flooring is out, out, out,” Jay Britto of Britto Charette told Trulia, who explains that this material has low durability and has been oversaturated in the industry. Another reason: Bamboo was once hailed as an eco-friendly flooring option, but concerns have been raised about the negative effects it has on biodiversity and carbon emissions. Say no more.

 

4. Open Shelving
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“Something that looks great in photos, but not in real life, is open shelving in a kitchen. I don’t have that kind of space to just have décor items stacked on top of each other,” says TV personalityand designer on the new season of Trading Spaces, Sabrina Soto.

5. DIY Storage
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Thanks to Pinterest, millennials are all about embracing DIY ways to improve their homes. However, sometimes this approach is less than appealing. “Repurposing items like egg cartons and toilet paper rolls makes your space look junky,” Layne Brookshire of Ms. Placed Professional Organizing told Trulia.

6. Rose Gold
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PHOTO BY GETTY

“Rose gold is finally gone,” says Genevieve Gorder, a designer on the upcoming Trading Spaces reboot, of the metal that’s reigned supreme for years. “People are moving toward more of a mixed metal palette and more muted colors.”

7. Reclaimed Wood
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PHOTO BY GETTY

Apparently, there is too much of a good thing — even when it comes to rustic, eco-friendly reclaimed wood. “I think we have been phasing this one out for a bit and I am hopeful this trend continues,” Crowell told Trulia.

8. Bohemian Tapestries
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PHOTO BY GETTY

No matter how much you love the word “groovy,” next year is when psychedelic, ’70s-inspired wall hangings are officially over. “These guys had a dormant period from around 1980 to last year, and I think they are headed back into hibernation,” Crowell told Trulia.

Post found on housebeautiful.com

How to Invest in Real Estate If You Have Bad Credit

It seems like every time you turn on the television, there’s a new home improvement show dedicated to flipping houses and making bank—a popular way to invest in real estate. Investing in real estate and turning it for a profit might be tempting. But if your credit score is below 601—the number the credit bureaus mark as the dividing line between “fair” and “bad” credit—you might have a tough time finding funding.

So is investing in real estate out of the question for someone in that bunch? Not necessarily.

Buying an investment property vs. buying your own home

No matter what you’ve seen on TV, purchasing real estate as an investor is a lot more complicated than doing so as a homeowner if you are turning to a lender to help finance the deal.

“Those looking to finance the purchase of real estate as an investment—as opposed to a primary residence—can expect a higher interest rate and more stringent lending criteria from lenders before getting a mortgage,” explains Bruce Elliott, president of the Orlando Regional Realtor® Association and a broker associate with Regal R.E. Professionals in Orlando, FL.

Lenders typically require more money down and a better credit score for a real estate investment loan than for an owner-occupied home loan.

“They also look very carefully to ensure that investment home buyers are financially capable of sustaining the mortgage over an extended period of time in the event that the property doesn’t resell, and they even have formulas to calculate for shortages in expected rental income,” Elliott explains.

Can you invest in real estate with bad credit?

Unless you have spare cash or a loan from a friend or relative to finance your investment, obtaining a loan will likely be difficult.

That said, there are other options to help you one day become a real estate investor, Elliott says.

  • Improve your credit score. Resolve any collection-related issues uncovered by a credit check, and pay down existing balances. And be smart about other investments: Now is not the time to finance additional purchases such as a car or to open additional credit accounts of any type.
  • Find a hard money lender. No, this isn’t a back alley deal-maker. Hard money lenders are private individuals or groups who will put up cash for real estate ventures, and they are often more amenable to making a deal with someone who has poor credit. Of course, there will be some drawbacks: “Generally, these lenders will require anywhere from 40% to 60% down to purchase or close outright,” Elliott notes.
  • Skip putting money down. It might sound like a pipe dream, but Elliott says this is often the story behind those roadside “home for sale” signs that specify “cash only.” “The investor simply has purchased an option or received permission from a homeowner to try to sell the home,” he explains. “The investor makes money either from a back-to-back closing or from payment directly from the ultimate buyer.”

If you want to invest in real estate, bad credit can be a stumbling block, but it doesn’t have to derail the whole train.

Post courtesy of realtor.com

10 Modern Tablescapes to Try This Thanksgiving

By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, it’s understandable if you’re feeling tired of autumnal accents. If you can’t stand the thought of another pumpkin, these modern tablescapes are just what you need. Skip the standard dining setups, and opt for something a bit more unexpected to avoid decor fatigue this year.

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Seasonal Chic

The chic settings and serveware you already own will look swoon-worthy when showcased in a seasonally-appropriate — but still minimalist — manner. A simple glass bowl filled with miniature apples captures those autumnal vibes without being overwhelming or too kitschy.

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Gilded Accents

For those who really hate classic fall accents, look no further than this glam home that proves you can design a holiday-ready tablescape without traditional colors or stylings. Lush flowers, candles and linens come together to make a monochromatic table that is as gorgeous as they come. Store away everyday flatware and use a more festive option, like these gold beauties, to achieve a must-have holiday look that dazzles.

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Modern Makeover

Modern decor doesn’t have to take away from the festive flair that’s associated with holiday get togethers — it can actually add to the seasonal style. Pairing matte white essentials with shiny gold accents creates a whimsical space that feels magazine-worthy. Want to take it one step further? Trade in generic shapes for bold, geometric ones for a centerpiece that stands out.

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Harvest-Inspired Style

Now this is how you set a table that’s strong on Thanksgiving style, without following the standard decorating rules. Save the mums for curb appeal — mix and match different florals instead for the ultimate table upgrade. Succulents and ferns pair perfectly with moody maroon flowers for a modern arrangement that brings modern qualities to any dining room.

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Understated Elegance

Mixing and matching different colors, prints and textures is a popular approach that can be applied to the dining room, too. Add just a small touch of Thanksgiving-esque style by working in a seasonal napkin at each individual setting. The simple gray charger and white dinnerware are perfectly complemented by a neutral print that instantly brings some warmth.

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On-Trend Table

On-trend patterns, fabrics and materials can easily be incorporated to make a dining table appear fresh and totally of-the-moment. Floral linens, boho chargers and rose gold candle holders come together flawlessly to enhance the neutral backdrop. Top it off with carefully curated bouquets (and a little rosé) for a charming extra that will tie the whole thing together.

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Stylish Settings

A complete tablescape overhaul can be a lot of work — and pricey. Instead, opt for budget-friendly updates to get a makeover that won’t cut your style short. Simple additions have the power to completely transform your interior into a Thanksgiving-ready space in a few easy steps. Just introduce a thematic placemat or charger underneath each place setting.

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Unexpected Palettes

Festive hues of red, orange and yellow may be the norm when it comes to Thanksgiving, but this dining room proves that those shades aren’t the only ones that work. Switch things up by ditching those classic colors and incorporating some unexpected options. Glassware, serveware, linens and flowers in blue and green create a space that brings modern appeal, while maintaining those homey, charming qualities.

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Minimalist Centerpiece

Thanksgiving may be synonymous with cornucopias and other bountiful additions, but we’re swooning over the less is more approach this time around. Let understated centerpieces steal the show by choosing trendy plants rather than traditional florals. Keep the linens and settings minimalist and have those leafy focal points be the major statements.

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Wooden Upgrades

Just because you have a wooden table, doesn’t mean you have to go the rustic route. Consider introducing moody gray hues to make for a more dramatic ambiance. With a geometric pattern and slight sheen, these new textiles will have an undeniably impact. Add an ample amount of candles for the perfect glow to keep the modern touches coming.

Post courtesy of HGTV.com

3 Ways Real Estate Can Boost Your Retirement Income

 

There’s big appeal in the idea of investing in real estate right now. And it’s not just because of all the attention these days on President Donald Trump, who made his fortune in the industry.

Many real estate-related investments have done quite well in the last decade or so. The median sales price of single-family homes hit $315,700 at the end of the third quarter, up 23 percent from the prior peak for values in 2007 before the financial crisis hit.

At the same time, a low-interest rate environment has depressed yields in typical safe-haven investments like bonds and certificates of deposit. That has made income-generating real estate assets even more attractive.

And, of course, there’s the basic value of real estate as part of any well-balanced investment portfolio.

“Without alternative assets, a portfolio is limited to stocks and bonds. That means the portfolio is not fully diversified,” says Craig Cecilio, founder and president of real estate investment firm DiversyFund. “The other big advantage of real estate investing is that your investment is backed by real assets.”

Yes, real estate values do fluctuate – and sometimes drop significantly. But since properties are physical assets, they will always be worth something whereas other investments can go all the way to zero.

So if you like the appeal of real estate, how should you start investing?

Buy rental homes. This is the most direct way to invest in real estate – however, this approach does comes with a few drawbacks.

The first is the initial investment that’s required, since buying a house can require a big one-time payment or taking on significant debt. Then, of course, there is the hassle of being a landlord to fix leaky faucets or dealing with tenants.

That said, in many markets where rental rates are higher than mortgage payments on a similar property, a shrewd landlord can easily wind up ahead at the end of every month – and more importantly, have a reliable income stream that is independent of any appreciation in the underlying real estate.

Of course, renting versus house flipping is very different, and this latter strategy can be fraught with risks, Cecilio says.

“Investors need to ask whether the incentives of the investment issuer are the same as their own incentives,” he says.

For instance, if a company benefits by selling you advice or issuing loans instead of sharing in the ups and downs of your investment portfolio, that’s a sign that they may not care much whether you ever make any money.

Buy into publicly traded REITs. A special class of companies known as real estate investment trusts, or REITs, are specifically designed to make public investment accessible for regular investors.

In fact, thanks to all the attention, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index added real estate as its 11th industry group in 2016 to show the importance of this segment on Wall Street.

The biggest appeal for income-oriented investors is that REITs are a special class of investment with the mandate for big dividends. These companies are granted special tax breaks to allow them to more easily invest in the capital-intensive real estate sector, but in exchange, they must deliver 90 percent of their taxable income directly back to shareholders.

As a result, the yield of many REITs is significantly higher than what you’ll find in other dividend stocks. Mall operator Simon Property Group (NYSE: SPG) yields about 4.8 percent. Residential housing developer AvalonBay Communities (AVB) yields about 3.1 percent.

And, of course, investors can purchase a diversified group of these stocks via an exchange-traded fund if they prefer. For example, the Vanguard REIT Index Fund (VNQ), yields about 3.9 percent at present and has a portfolio of 155 of the biggest real estate names on Wall Street. The VNQ has an expense ratio of 0.11 percent, or $11 per $10,000 invested.

Crowdfunding. A fast-growing form of real estate investment for the digital age is via “crowdfunded” properties. The concept involves pooling together the investments of individuals to purchase properties, and share in those properties’ successes.

DiversyFund is one provider of these crowdsourced investments, as is Fundrise, a Washington, D.C.-based firm that owns properties from South Carolina to Seattle.

“We allow investors to very simply invest in private real estate instead of public real estate, with much lower fees and greater transparency, through the internet,” says Fundrise co-founder and CEO Ben Miller.

Private real estate can offer much bigger yields than publicly traded REITs, Miller says, to the tune of 8 to 10 percent annually. But the challenge in the past was the burden of big upfront fees and a lack of liquidity or access to your initial investment after you buy in.

Miller says REITs offer low barriers to entry for investors and the ability to buy or sell stocks on a daily basis, but investors pay a steep “liquidity premium” for the ability to trade – and subsequently, suffer a lower return.

“That liquidity premium is theoretically a benefit, but it’s invisible for most people and it’s not free,” he says. “If you’re investing in the long-term for income, why would you pay that premium?”

Crowdfunding platforms like Fundrise, DiversyFund, Realty Shares and RealtyMogul all look to take the best of both private and public worlds. For instance, Fundrise has a minimum investment of just $500 in its “starter portfolio” and charges significantly lower fees thanks to the cost-saving benefits of technology and a lack of middlemen.

Post courtesy of usnews.com

Renting or Buying a Home: Which Is Best for You?

To find out whether you should rent or buy a home, crunch the numbers using this two-step process.

The most common question people have about their living situation is whether it’s better to rent or own a home. The answers they get are typically either too generalized mathematically, or cover lifestyle issues while leaving out economic factors. Here are two ways to answer the rent versus buy question.

Step 1: By the numbers

The first method is to understand the basic math of how to compare renting versus buying. There are four components to this step:

  1. Calculate the monthly cost of homeownership.
  2. Calculate the tax benefits of homeownership.
  3. Subtract the tax benefits from the cost of ownership to get the “after tax cost.”
  4. Compare the after tax cost to market rent for a comparable property.

Using this approach, let’s calculate the monthly cost of buying a home in Seattle, where the housing market is very hot and the median home price across the region is $478,500.

Suppose you’re buying a home of this price with 20 percent down and a top-tier credit score of 780, with a 30-year fixed mortgage rate of 3.625 percent (remember, rates change daily). A quick run through the mortgage calculator shows that this mortgage payment is $1,746, property taxes are $479, and homeowner’s insurance is $67, for a total monthly housing cost of $2,292.

The federal tax deductions homeowners get for mortgage interest and property taxes save $490 per month in taxes. (To calculate estimated tax savings, multiply loan amount by interest rate and multiply purchase price by property tax rate estimate of 1.2 percent. Add these two numbers, and multiply the result by an income tax rate estimate of 30 percent, then divide by 12 to get a monthly figure. Always consult your tax adviser on any tax-related matters for a precise calculation specific to your situation.)

Subtract the monthly tax savings from total monthly housing cost of $2,292 to get an after-tax housing cost of $1,802. If we compare this to the Seattle median rent of $1,791, we can see that renting is $11 per month cheaper than buying — very close, even in a hot market.

If you do these calculations in other areas such as the Dallas-Fort Worth metro, where home prices are lower and rents are higher (relative to ownership costs), the math will more clearly support buying over renting. In some markets, buying can be cheaper than renting even before incorporating homeowner tax benefits.

Doing these rent-versus-buy calculations for your own market only takes a few minutes. Just look up home prices and rents in your area to get started.

Step 2: Time will tell

The second method for deciding if it’s better to rent or own is to understand how long it takes for buying to become more financially advantageous than renting. The point at which this happens is called the breakeven horizon.

This is a calculation Zillow created to analyze rent-versus-buy decisions at the household level. It incorporates all possible buying costs and benefits such as down payment, closing costs, mortgage payment, property taxes, insurance, utilities, maintenance, and tax benefits, as well as all renting costs for the same home. Calculations also incorporate home value and rental price appreciation.

Breakeven horizon is the year when buying costs become less than or equal to renting costs when accounting for all of the factors noted above.

For our Seattle sample area, the average breakeven horizon is 1.9 years, which (only coincidentally) is the same as the national breakeven horizon right now — meaning buying becomes more financially advantageous than renting after 1.9 years. The latest full list of breakeven horizons for major cities shows how various areas perform on this rent-versus-buy method.

The sample Seattle market calculations above show it costs about the same ($11 difference) to buy or rent right now if you account for tax benefits, and it costs more to buy than rent if you don’t account for tax benefits. If you then consider that buying becomes more financially advantageous than renting 1.9 years after your purchase, these two methods combined make a good case for buying.

Once you’ve analyzed both of these rent-versus-buy methods for your target area, you’ll have a strong command of which option makes the most financial sense. Then the rest of your rent-versus-buy decision is about lifestyle choices like whether of not you want mobility, maintenance responsibility, or freedom to upgrade your living space.

Post courtesy of zillow.com