3 Easy Ways to Illuminate Your Home for the Holidays

holiday(StatePoint) ‘Tis the season of friends, family and entertaining! If you’re planning on hosting guests — whether for an entire week of family fun or a one-night celebration — now’s the time to get your home in the holiday spirit.

“Preparing a home for the holidays doesn’t have to require adding extensive decorations or undergoing a total remodel to update favorite spaces,” says Jennifer Kis, director of marketing communications for Progress Lighting. “Small changes through lighting can create a festive and comfortable environment with minimal effort and investment.”

Here are three easy tips to try:

Update Entryways and Foyers. Your entryway is your opportunity to make an exceptional first impression and set the tone for the rest of the interior. Add drama to your foyer with a grouping of striking, oversized pendant lights in lieu of a traditional chandelier.

Pay Attention to Shared Spaces. Popular spaces where friends and family are likely to gather most during the holidays include great rooms, living rooms and dining areas. A large statement chandelier in a common living space creates a focal point and also ensures there is enough illumination for card games, movies and coffee and cocoa by the fireside.

Illuminate Walkways to Enhance Curb Appeal. Simple outdoor lighting techniques can improve a home’s appearance and also offer functional features during the holidays and beyond. Added illumination will improve safety and enhance security, while bringing a new bold look to the front of your home. To create instant curb appeal, hang a large lantern on either side of your front door, or install a post lantern at the front of your walkway.

For more design inspiration and to view on-trend lighting collections, visit progresslighting.com.

In a few easy steps, you can light up your home for a warm and welcoming holiday season.  If you would like more holiday ideas or you are looking for  homes in the West Essex area,  contact me and I will be happy to help you find the home of your dreams.

Concerned About Rising Mortgage Rates? Borrowers Have Options

(StatePoint) While mortgage interest rates remain near historic lows, they have been slowly rising over the last year, increasing the cost of 30-year loans for borrowers.

mortgageHome buyers concerned about higher rates have other options to consider: an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM), which provides an initial lower monthly payment, or a 15-year fixed rate mortgage, which has a higher monthly payment but reduces the amount of interest paid over the course of the loan.

A Shot in the ARM

An ARM typically starts out at a lower interest rate than the classic, 30-year fixed rate. After an initial period, typically five, seven or 10 years, the interest rate adjusts over the life of the loan.

There are several different types of ARMs, but one of the most popular is the 7/1, which stays at the same rate for the first seven years and then adjusts yearly thereafter.

“After the fixed period, the rate can increase each year, but the good news is that there are caps on how high that rate can go,” says Peter Boomer, head of mortgage distribution for PNC Bank. “The opposite may also be true: it’s possible the rate will decline if market forces are pointing that way. The best advice is to check with your lender for the details.”

What You Need to Consider

Boomer said it’s important to know how long you expect to be in your home.

“The national average is seven years before homeowners sell or refinance, which is why the 7/1 ARM is so popular,” he said. “If you expect to be in a home for fewer than 10 years, then you may want to consider an ARM.”

Boomer suggests talking with a mortgage loan officer about whether an adjustable rate may save you money. Many people like the idea of that lower rate to start, while others prefer the peace of mind of a stable rate.

For traditional mortgages, refinancing remains a viable option if interest rates fall in subsequent years.

“It’s important to remember that mortgage rates rise and fall over time. It may be worth considering an ARM because over time there may be savings, as opposed to the cost of refinancing,” Boomer says.

Look at your family, job, future and goals to decide whether this option makes sense. Your family may grow, you may get a new job and relocate, you may downsize for retirement or face other changing financial conditions.

15-Year Mortgage

Another alternative is a shorter term fixed-rate loan, the most popular being 15 years.

According to Boomer, while a 15-year mortgage will have a higher monthly payment than a 30-year fixed, the interest rate is typically lower and you pay back the principle faster, which means you can save money on interest over the length of the loan.

“The good news for consumers is that there are many financing options available. Talk to your loan officer to discuss which best fits your situation,” he says.

To learn more about borrowing options, visit pnc.com.

Owning a home is on the path to keeping your American dream alive, and exploring your options can help you more easily achieve it.   If you would like more information about homes in the West Essex area contact me and I will be happy to help you find the home of your dreams.

Upgrade Your Kitchen to Cook Like a Professional Chef

kitchen(StatePoint) Of course, cooking like a chef at home requires talent and practice. But there’s no doubt about it — having the right culinary tools, appliances and prep space is essential, too.

To upgrade your kitchen so that you can cook like a chef, consider the following:

Prep Like a Pro

Save time and energy and get a cleaner cut by maintaining your knives. Properly clean, dry and store knives directly after use and regularly sharpen them. Whether that’s on a magnetic strip on the wall or an in-drawer organizer, the best options will allow you to see all your knives at once so you can reach for the correct one. Precision slicing? You may also wish to invest in a mandoline.

Bake a lot? Consider ditching the measuring cups by using a digital scale instead. You’ll get faster, more accurate results. And the bonus of less to clean-up.

Cook Like a Pro

When it comes to ensuring that there are no limits to what you can do in the kitchen, it’s all about having top-notch appliances. Check out the Pro Series Collection of free-standing ranges from ILVE. Known for their handcrafted Italian appliances, the new series offers chef-quality features such as a removable griddle, high BTU brass burners and a built-in warm drawer to keep cooked food at an ideal temperature for serving. Available in a 36-inch single or unique double oven configuration as well as 40-inch and 48-inch sizes with double ovens, the electric ovens feature multi-function cooking options and included rotisserie accessory. The Pro Series is equipped with features that professional chefs dream of at a price point that the home culinarian can afford. Offered in stainless steel and matte graphite colors, you can get a professional-style cooking experience while maintaining the sleek design of your kitchen.

Move Like a Pro

Do an audit of your current cooking habits, bearing in mind the layout of your kitchen and the organization of go-to ingredients. Are you expending time and energy walking all the way around the kitchen island just to get to the fridge? Are you spending too much time poking around for a particular spice or oil? The optimal flow in your kitchen space will allow for more intuitive food preparation and help you stay light on your feet.

Want to cook like a professional? Update your kitchen accordingly. A few upgrades can help you become a better chef.

3 Unexpected Upgrades to Add Beauty and Comfort to Your Home

home updates(StatePoint) While a simple home upgrade once meant a new area rug or fresh coat of paint, these days, there are new and unexpected ways to update your space in order to add beauty and comfort to your home.

• Think Smart: New technology can add unexpected convenience and luxury to your everyday life. Virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit, can help make your space cozy, comfortable and secure, giving you the ability to control light bulbs, door locks, blinds, music and more with voice commands. Companion apps also allow you to control home elements through your phone from anywhere.

Particular about your shower? Create the perfect experience every day by programming temperature and water flow settings to your liking.

Enjoying family movie night and don’t want to get off the couch? With a WiFi-enabled SIMPLEconnect smart fan from Hunter Fan Company, for example, you can turn the light and breeze on and off with simple voice commands.

• Living gallery wall: Add vitality and beauty to your space with a living gallery wall, whereby plant life becomes a work of art. Known as a vertical garden, there are many ways to go about it, whether it’s affixing planters in a pattern to your wall or hanging a flat panel of succulents and moss and bordering it with a picture frame. This will create a lively visual and a healthy one at that — adding oxygen to the rooms of your home, or even nutrition, should you choose to plant herbs.

• Add a breeze: Whether you live in an old house where central air is non-existent or you just want to add some ventilation to your space with a low-key upgrade, there’s no need to call in an HVAC team. Adding a ceiling fan to the landing of your staircase, for example, can help pull and circulate cool air into the upstairs space. Or, consider transforming the traditionally neglected laundry room into a space that’s comfortable for getting chores done. The addition of a ceiling fan can create a breeze and alleviate the heat created by the dryer. Low-profile versions like the Cranbrook from Hunter Fan Company, are a good fit for the small square footage of a laundry room.

For more design or upgrade tips, follow Hunter Fan Company on instagram at @Hunterfanco or visit itsaHunter.com.

Thinking outside the box when updating your space can go a long way toward adding beauty and comfort to your home.

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PHOTO SOURCE: (c) Diana Elizabeth Blog for Hunter Fan Company

New Listing – 29 Francisco Ave West Caldwell

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29 Francisco Ave W. Caldwell

Classic 3 bedroom brick, slate roof colonial in desirable Presidential Section. Located on a quiet street with Francisco Park on  one end and a cul-de-sac on the other. The classic center hall layout directs traffic left to the spacious living room with fireplace and built-in bookcases, right into the formal dining room, or back to the jalousied porch. Be sure to notice the beautiful wide-plank hardwood floors. The kitchen includes a walk-in pantry and connected breakfast room complete with a wall of built-ins. A wood paneled den and powder room complete the first floor. The second floor features a huge master bedroom with bath, 2 additional bedrooms and a full bath. Your updates can turn this special house into the home of your dreams!

To see this property call me today  @ 973-349-6731

For more information visit 29franciscoave.c21.com

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Top Tips and Decluttering Insights for Your Next Move

packing oneMoving can be emotional and the ways you manage it – including the downsizing of your possessions – may be influenced by your age, suggests a new study.

“From heirlooms to kitchen gadgets, moving is one of the few times in life when you’re forced to consider all your possessions and decide what goes and what stays,” says Pat Baehler, senior vice president, Mayflower Moving. “It can be a journey of ups and downs, from feeling brief guilt over purging gifts or older furniture, to pure joy in remembering the story behind a family heirloom and thinking of the memories you’ll soon make in your new home.”

Baby boomers (64 percent) and Generation Xers (60 percent) are more likely than millennials (53 percent) to put an heirloom in a safe place to pass along, according to the 2018 Mayflower Mover Insights Study, which explored different generations’ relationships with their belongings. However, millennials (17 percent) are more likely than Generation Xers (12 percent) and baby boomers (10 percent) to refurbish or repurpose an heirloom into something new.

The survey, conducted by Mayflower, which moves approximately 50,000 families annually, also explored how Americans feel about decluttering and purging unused items: 80 percent of survey respondents agree that clutter stresses them out, and half declutter their living space to feel more relaxed.

While such emotional stressors are often unavoidable during a move, the following tips from the experts at Mayflower can help you ease the logistical and financial burdens.

• Most people want to move on a Thursday or Friday, so if you can move earlier in the week there will likely be more availability. Likewise, it’s best to move in the early or middle part of the month, as well as to avoid summer — the busiest time for most moving companies.

• Prevent mishaps. Consider letting professionals pack breakable items.

• Help offset relocation costs by looking into programs such as CityPointe, provided by Mayflower, offering cash back on the sale and purchase price of your home.

• Of the millions of Americans that move annually, fraud occurs in as many as 3,000 cases. Don’t get scammed. Ask for a moving quote from three companies and don’t be hooked by the lowest price. If one estimate is much lower than the others, it could be a red-flag that the company isn’t legitimate. Generally, reputable moving companies will not require a deposit, so don’t pay up-front.

• Reduce energy spent packing and unpacking. While 57 percent of survey respondents say they’ll purge everything they don’t need before moving, only 44 percent have actually done this in the past. Luckily, there are both new and lucrative channels for doing so: 47 percent of Americans say they use some kind of online service, social site or app to help them declutter, 26 percent are considering selling unused items through a resale or consignment shop and 35 percent are considering selling unused items online, according to the Mayflower survey. For additional moving tips and tools, visit Mayflower.com.

Whether you’re a minimalist or a pack rat, smart strategies can mean a low-stress move.

(StatePoint Media)
PHOTO SOURCE: (c) SolisImages/stock.Adobe.com

Interest Rates are Rising: Should You Buy a Home or Wait?

(StatePoint) With heightened talk of rising interest rates, many prospective home buyers are understandably concerned about whether it’s the right time to purchase a home.

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Indeed, you may be wondering if you waited too long and let the historically low interest rates pass you by or if you can still find a dream home that fits within your current budget.

Experts say that it’s true that rates are at their highest in almost four years and that this year has been particularly rough, however, it’s not all bad news. Rates are still well below the levels seen 10, 20 and 30 years ago.

“Rates are still low by historical standards, helping make mortgage payments affordable for many, but your wallet might take a hit if rates continue to go up,” says Freddie Mac deputy chief economist, Len Kiefer.

How big will the hit be? Assume you buy a home with a 20 percent down payment, take out a $200,000 mortgage and are getting a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. At a 4.5 percent interest rate, your monthly payment would be $811 with total interest paid over the life of the loan being $131,851. With a 7.5 percent interest rate, your monthly payment would be $1,119 with a total interest paid of $242,748. With an 18 percent interest rate, your monthly payment skyrockets to $2,411 with a total interest paid of $708,081.

If rates jump a half percentage, you’ll pay a bit more each month, which isn’t ideal, but the added expense will unlikely be a deal-breaker. However, if rates jump to the levels they were in 1981 (an average of 18 percent), you can expect to pay a whopping $1,600 more per month, which may cause you to think twice about taking the plunge into home ownership.

To find out how much you’ll pay, check out Freddie Mac’s free Fixed-Rate Mortgage Calculator at calculators.freddiemac.com. For other free tools and resources, visit myhome.freddiemac.com.

Don’t let current rising interest rates prevent you from buying a home this year. Experts suggest that while rates have risen recently, historically speaking, it is still an overall great time to buy.

Are Common Myths Holding You Back from Buying a Home?

(StatePoint) Aspirations of home ownership is strong for America’s families, yet findings from the fifth annual America at Home survey from NeighborWorks America indicate several perceived barriers to home ownership among the majority of consumers.pexels-photo-106399.jpeg

Findings from the survey, which consisted of 1,000 U.S. adults and 500 millennials include many misconceptions about what it takes to buy a home:

  • The average millennial mistakenly thinks the minimum required down payment is 21.6 percent.
  • Approximately 73 percent of all consumers and 62 percent of millennials said they were not aware of or are unsure about down payment assistance programs in their communities for middle-income home buyers.
  • Seventy percent of adults feel they don’t have enough money saved for a down payment.

Experts believe that confusion about down payment requirements and lack of awareness about assistance programs are holding back many people from pursuing homeownership. “Before deciding if owning a home is right for you, take time to understand your down payment options, and separate myths from facts,” says Freddie Mac Vice President, Danny Gardner.

For example, the average down payment among first-time home buyers in 2016 was just 6 percent and, for repeat buyers, just 14 percent. What’s more, mortgage options, such as Freddie Mac’s Home Possible Mortgages, make it possible for qualified borrowers to put down as little as 3 percent.

If your down payment is less than 20 percent with a conventional loan, you’ll have to pay private mortgage insurance, an added insurance policy that protects the lender if you are unable to pay your mortgage. However, mortgage rates — despite their rise in recent years — remain at historic lows, providing you with a significant advantage.

There are also millions of dollars available for down payment assistance. A great place to start is right where you live. Many state, county, and city governments provide financial assistance for people in their communities who are well qualified and ready for home ownership.

To help demystify down payments and the home buying process, free tools and resources are available at myhome.freddiemac.com.

Don’t let misconceptions hold you back from pursuing home ownership. Check out the facts to learn how much home you can afford.

Is it time for you to make your move?  Email me at kim.fiore@century21.com  to get started.

How to Find the Right Home Mortgage So You Don’t Overpay

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(StatePoint) Ample bedrooms and bathrooms? Check. A roomy kitchen? Check. A nice-sized backyard, storage space in the attic and just the right amount of curb appeal? Check, check and check.

Once you’ve found your perfect home, the next step is finding the right mortgage — which can sometimes feel like you’re competing in a contact sport, being blindsided by confusing requests or financial surprises as you go through the application process.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 63.7 percent of Americans own their home. But getting there wasn’t necessarily easy. A 2017 NerdWallet survey reports that 42 percent of homeowners felt the home-buying process was stressful, a third said it was complicated, and 21 percent found it intimidating.

To help make you a mortgage all-star, Ally Home has created “The Mortgage Playbook,” a free, easy-to-read resource. Authored by members of the Ally Home Team, a dedicated group of loan experts, the “Playbook” features four sections that cover the entire field — from a getting-started game plan to approval and closing on a mortgage. It also breaks down confusing financial terms, helping applicants avoid pain during the home buying process.

To help you prepare for your mortgage game day, here are three top tips from the experts at Ally:

• Maximize your financial fitness. There are five steps consumers should take to improve their “financial fitness” before applying for a mortgage. These include demonstrating stable employment, managing debt, paying down credit accounts, accumulating assets like savings or retirement accounts to boost credit histories, and reviewing (and correcting, if necessary) your credit reports.

• Know your numbers. Borrowers can take advantage of free online tools, such as the Affordability Calculator available at Ally.com, to determine how much house they can afford. Using two pieces of data — monthly income and monthly debt — a borrower can quickly calculate their debt-to-income ratio. In most instances, this ratio should not exceed 43 percent, meaning your monthly mortgage payment and other debt obligations (car loan, school loan, credit card payments) should not comprise more than 43 percent of your gross monthly income.

• Know what type of mortgage is best for you. One of the biggest decisions borrowers make is whether to get a fixed-rate or adjustable-rate mortgage. When interest rates are low, a fixed-rate mortgage may be the better option. But if interest rates are higher, an adjustable rate mortgage could make sense because its lower initial rate means lower monthly payments for a specific time period (usually five, seven or 10 years) before the rate could change.

For more valuable tips, visit ally.com/docs/bank/ally-home-playbook to download the complete “Mortgage Playbook.” This free resource was created by Ally Home, whose mortgage products are offered by Ally Bank, Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender.

Just like you wouldn’t hit the field without training and preparation, don’t head into the home buying process without the right knowledge. Leverage free resources that can help you be prepared.

 

West Essex Home Sale Prices

Average home sale prices in the West Essex NJ area are finally close to the sale prices that were last seen in 2006, the height of the housing market peak according to the NJ Department of Taxation.   In fact, Livingston, North Caldwell and Roseland prices have slightly exceeded those  of 2006.  2015 2006 avg home price

Is it time for you to make your move? You might be in for a happy surprise if you have not checked the value of your home recently!   Email me at kim.fiore@century21.com  to get started.