Home Equity Loan Tips: 5 Steps to Earn Equity in Your Home Quickly

According to a Federal Reserve Bank report published in 2002 thirty-five percent, the biggest share, of home equity loan dollars goes back into the borrowers house through home improvements and maintenance projects. Considering the benefits and the ease of leveraging the equity you already have through a second mortgage or mortgage refinancing, this is hardly a surprise. ”The cake itself is the equity, and that is the important part of ownership,” Richard Wakelin, of Wakelin Property Advisory. If you are smart about building equity you can earn it even faster and with less investment. Some of the best ways to increase equity are simple such as:

1. Buying a home in the right neighborhood is critical. If the real estate values are rising, you could build equity without doing anything more than holding on to the property.

2. Curb appeal is key to raising a home’s value. It doesn’t take much money to install irrigation and landscape a property, but the first impression from the outside can be worth a lot. If you have some equity in your property already, a home equity credit line may be a better way to fund these smaller improvements than using a credit card. The interest is lower and so are the payments.

3. Remodel the kitchen if you really want to increase the value. Buyers are willing to pay more for a home with a gorgeous cook-friendly kitchen. If you are looking to do a remodel, mortgage refinancing is a good way to cash out on the equity that you already have and invest in building further equity. (Likely with a tax break on the interest as well.)

4. Master bedroom and bathroom improvements are also a good way to increase equity and can also be paid for through a refinance.

5. Don’t forget small improvements with “sweat equity” either. Just a little bit of capital and a lot of muscle can greatly improve a home through painting, wall papering and other do-it-yourself upgrades.

A little bit thought and effort can go a long way in making your property your best investment!

Home Improvement: Landscaping Ideas for the Front Yard

Whether you are buying or selling a home, the front yard is the first thing that people look at. Without curb appeal, it is impossible to sell a home because buyers are often turned off by unkempt yards. Many home owners associations require you to keep up your yard or you could be fined. The unattractiveness of a yard can actually bring down property value, a quality your neighbors will not appreciate. Luckily, there are many things you can do to improve the look of your front yard.

Most homes of the year win because of their exceptional green grass. Some grasses have thick course blades, and others are more thin and smooth and grow thicker. However, different grass grows in different kinds of soil. Ask someone in your local home improvement store which grass grows best in your area.

Planting a flower garden is one of the easiest things you can do to improve your yard. It is important to find flowers with height and colors that complement each other. Just like the house required planning to build, a good garden requires planning. Researching types of flowers and whether or not they are perennial or annual will help you plant a better garden.

Trees also help to improve the look of a front yard. Palmetto trees often look nice at the edge of the curb. Two Dogwood trees, one at either side of the yard, bring color to your yard in the spring and summer and add curb appeal to your home. One Dogwood in the middle of the yard also adds color and style.

Regardless of what type of tree you decide to put in your yard, be sure to plant it so that it is at least 5 feet away from your home when fully grown. Homes need room to breathe; having a tree planted too close could eventually cause the home to rot where air is not coming through. Keep an eye on branches so that they do not tower over the roof of your home and become a potential hazard.

If your front yard is big enough, another idea that helps bring a look of tranquility to the yard is a small pond or fountain. If you decide to place a pond in your front yard, adding some stones and rocks to the outside and planting lily pads will bring a unique look and design to your front yard. Bird baths also help enhance the look of a yard, and the birds are entertaining to watch.

When landscaping your front yard, have fun with it. This is your yard, and your art project.

Making the Most of the Relationship With Your Construction Manager

Congratulations. You have decided to build your new home or major renovation. You have picked out your construction manager and you are finally ready to get started.

Building a new home or doing a major remodel is an exciting time. And the most important relationship you have during this time is with your construction manager and maybe primary contractor. Here in Panama, like most places they are usually the same firm.

If you do it right, your project will be a dream and your friendship will be a long one. But, if this relationship is strained, the venture could turn into a nightmare of never ending expense and bad feelings.

Here are 5 steps to keep a good relationship with your construction manager.

Set a Proper Budget

Your budget should be determined before anything else is done. This includes getting your initial quotes and estimates. Without knowing a budget, it is almost impossible to come up with a proper estimate. It’s possible to do a $5,000 dollar kitchen or a $50,000 dollar kitchen. Without a budget, it is impossible to proceed.

Also, when you are doing your budget, you need to allow for changes and over runs. 80% is a good benchmark. So, if you have $200,000 to allocate to your new home, your budget should be around $160,000. If you have it and don’t need it, you can use your extra 20% for furniture. But, if you need it and don’t have it, everyone’s schedule needs to go on hold while you find the extra funds.

Pre-Plan

The most important stage of any construction project is the pre-planning you do with your construction managers. A good plan will eliminate or reduce changes and problems along the way. But, not having a good plan is sure to result in cost overruns and bad feelings.

You should know everything in advance. The makes and model numbers of supplies, how they will be installed, everything. This planning will help keep everything on schedule and as expected.

Keep to the Plan

Wherever possible, try and keep with the plan. When you change anything along the way, schedules are interrupted and it is going to cost you. Probably more than the upgrade or change would have cost originally. So, if you change from a $20 door knob to a $40 door knob, it may end up costing you more than the $20 dollar difference, due to extra trips to the store, schedule changes etc.

This is a small example, but any change at this point causes a disruption, and any disruption takes time from the schedule. If possible, nothing should be changed at this point. If a change needs to be done, use a proper change order. This way all parties know exactly what is expected and what it is going to cost. It will save misunderstandings later.

Follow Up During the Process

Sometimes, no matter how well things are planned, there are misunderstandings during the construction process. Maybe you thought one thing, while the construction manager’s understanding is something different.

Regular follow ups through the construction process will ensure costs are kept to a minimum. If you wait until the project is done before telling the contractor that you wanted a different finish, it might mean ripping out some other finishing work later. And disrupting your entire schedule.

Do a Walk Through / Punch List

Finally, after the construction is completed, do a walk through with your construction manager. Waiting for 3 months to inform the construction manager that there is a problem isn’t going to help you resolve the issue. Get everything out in the open right away, so it can be dealt with.

Working with a construction manager is a process starting before your construction begins, and ending after it is complete. If things go well, the relationship could last for years.

The most important parts of the entire relationship are in the preplanning stages. So make sure that ample groundwork is done.

Make your next construction project a dream come true, and make your construction manager your best friend.