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Monday, July 25, 2011

Spruce Up Your Basement With a Remodel For a Lasting and Positive Effect – in More Ways Than One

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The opportunity that exists in basements is huge – and it’s simply a matter of availing it to the fullest. Many property owners neglect to realize the hidden potential in all that extra space which can offer a whole host of added benefits. Whether you have a teenager who could benefit from his own space, would like a recreation/bar area for entertaining, or if you regularly have guests and want to offer a private living space for them – there are myriad reasons to remodel a basement. A quality remodeling project will address five areas so that you are left with a usable, livable and comfortable space in your basement.


One of the most noticeable differences in any space, especially basements, is flooring. Most basements have unfinished flooring, so even if you were to install a less expensive industrial-grade carpet it would be an improvement. However, in the spirit of being economical and utilizing all resources, homeowners often upgrade to higher quality carpet or rugs to soften the seemingly harsh or rough basement finish. Wood floors are usually not recommended, since there is a potential for flooding or water leakage from heating/cooling systems. However there are several options that are practical and without compromise on quality. Tiling, linoleum or carpeting are the popular choices these days. Keeping in mind your end use, choose wisely. For families with small children, a solid Berber carpet works very well, whereas empty nesters can get away with tile.


Like the floors, basements walls are also usually unfinished. Though for several years paneling received considerable slack for being “too seventies”, there has been a recent revival but with an updated style. Instead of the standard plywood paneling we’ve seen in many finished basements in homes built in the 70s and 80s, now there is an influx of walls covered with drywall, architectural panels and even synthetic siding. If budget is a concern, you can get creative with simple tension rods and simple curtain panels, strings of beads or other hanging wall/window coverings.


The inclusion of a bathroom in a basement is a must. Many homeowners who have some experience in Do-It-Yourself projects attempt to do this portion of the basement on their own. If managed properly the workings of a bathroom building/remodeling project, very closely monitored by you, can result in a beautiful addition to the space. Not only will adding a bathroom to your basement significantly increase the value of your home, it will also add a tremendous about of comfort and convenient. Depending on the end purpose plus how the rest of the basement is finished – choose fixtures and other permanent bathroom elements accordingly.


A lot of basements are used as an extra entertaining space, particularly if you are avid entertainers and enjoy having groups of people over for recreation. Some popular choices are to set up a bar or game room, secondary lounge and relaxation space, an activity space for kids or a library/study or work area as a home office. With just a few finishing touches like putting up wall hangings, decorating with a cohesive style or including some essential furniture items, you will complete the space. For game rooms, installing appropriate elements such as a cork wall for darts or a table tennis area and a wet bar space preferably located near a plumbing set-up are also finishing touches that will perfect the rooms.


There is hardly a basement that isn’t used for storage purposes – and chances are that even if you already have a finished basement there is probably a space set aside for storage. One of the most popular things to do during a remodel is to get organized – literally. By setting up proper storage systems in terms of the structural aspect, you can minimize space wastage and maximize your basement’s usage. Utilizing the space behind and under staircases, for example, is a very convenient method of using otherwise dead space. By installing simple, durable shelves you can get miles of use out of the area setting it aside for those smaller storage items like tools or garden supplies.

When a home on the market has a finished basement, the basement is usually one of the first things that generate buyers’ interest. Many prospective buyers may not have even had a finished basement in mind at first but when they see an updated, modern and usable space that increases the live-in space by as much as 30%, their interest is piqued.

No matter what your final purpose is in having your basement remodeled, it is undoubtedly a great decision and one that will reap benefits for years to come. So if you can do it, don’t hesitate!

Twelve Top Trends in Kitchen Design and Décor for 2011

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1. Green Design

Long before the economy reached where it is these days, the concept of energy-conserving, green living was already fast becoming mainstream.  Incorporating elements of green design into the kitchen is a hot trend that remains on the top of many industry experts’ to do list.  Using eco-friendly or recycled materials, bringing in energy-efficient appliances and incorporating natural sources of energy such as solar panels or skylights are some ways to implement green design into your kitchen space.

2. Elements of Nature

Bringing the outside in is a theme that will carry throughout the year and beyond.  As part of our love affair with all things green, elements of design that incorporate nature through things like pebbles embedded into walls, natural waterfalls, organic materials like bamboo and highlighting the colors of nature are popular.

3. Cool, Vibrant Color

Moving on from the tradition and very blah beiges, an influx of color has taken over as the new, hot trend in kitchen décor.  Splashes of oranges, reds, pinks and vibrant hues of blue and green – all draw attention to one of the most frequented spaces in the home.  Spanish tiles, painted cabinetry, unique backsplashes and, of course, display pieces and fixtures – are infuse color.  Warm and inviting, interesting and uplifting – lots of colors liven the space.  Spruce up the kitchen by using bold splashes of paint or wallpaper on one or two walls, and even the ceiling.

4. Raising Kitchens to New Heights

Gallery kitchens are seen more and more often, with taller cabinetry that reaches even greater heights than typically found in most kitchens.  Utilizing the wall space as an asset is particularly ideal for condos, apartment spaces or homes with smaller square footages such as those in big cities.  Gallery kitchen space is also a great transition from the main kitchen to the next room.

5. Dark, Exotic Finishes

Where white cabinets, light to medium counter tops, neutral walls and run-of-the-mill fixtures were once the norm, the new trend in both cabinetry and flooring is dark, natural finishes.  Balancing the dark elements of design with some neutral or metallic is a good idea but the overall shift toward espresso dark and chocolate brown looks are not only exotic but also practical. 

6. In the Age of Technology

In an age where everything depends on connectivity, we are seeing more kitchens with technology stations incorporated into the design and architecture.  Built-in desk space that provides homeowners with an area to write out bills, make phone calls, watch television, use the computer or sit back and relax, is a hot item lately.

7. Alternative Countertops

Keeping with the less formal look of many new kitchens lately, a new choice of countertops is soapstone.  Though granite remains the hottest option, homeowners are now turning to soapstone for its natural and more rustic feel.  The look especially complements kitchens with these days’ bright color schemes, as it offsets the heavy emphasis on color elsewhere in the space.

8. Customized Storage Solutions

There is never enough space and there is always room for improvement on how that space is organized.  Customized storage is particularly hot in kitchens as the new generations of foodies continues to breed, meaning that many unique and interesting tools, materials and appliances are used.  Storage solutions designed to accommodate a homeowner’s particular needs is currently on many people’s wish list.

9. Layers of Light

Gone are the days of just one ceiling light fixture and a hanging pendulum light over the kitchen table.  Now, multiple layers of light is the happening thing.  Providing new dimensions of aesthetic and functional design, there are several areas through which a kitchen can be illuminated.  Accent lighting installed under cabinets, along the sideboards and open cabinet interiors, task lighting designed to focus on a particular display area and varying levels of functional lighting give homeowners different degrees of light to choose from. 

10. Smart, Savvy Appliances

A streamlined wall of kitchen cabinets with hidden features creates a larger, fuller and more complete look.  Unlike the traditional kitchen space that is broken up by major appliances, the new trend that is incorporated in kitchens of all sizes and shapes is integrated appliances.  With the same exterior surface as the rest of the cabinets, integrated appliances are camouflaged, lending a customized look to the space.

11. High Glass is High Class

Glass tiling for kitchen backsplashes is a trend heavily used by top interior designers.  Lending a translucent and airy look that is not only classy and elegant, but also easy to maintain and practical – glass elements are the new neutral. 

12. Open Shelves

Gone with the old and in with the new cabinets that are unlike typical cabinets with no dimension that lack dimension and interest, incorporating open shelving into the kitchen is a trend that instantly enhances the space.  Open shelving allows homeowners to show off and display their wares while utilizing the storage space simultaneously.  Since there is a change from one cabinet to the next it lends an air of interest that is aesthetically pleasing.

How a Down Payment on a New Home Makes a Molehill Out of a Mountain!

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Believe me, your down payment on a new home affects nearly everything you can think of in the buying process - the loan programs you're able to qualify for, the size of the interest rate, the amount of closing costs, etc.

The basic rule is this: the more you have to put down on a down payment for a home, the more options you have!

This rule is true because, like all lenders, mortgage lenders dislike risk. They're in the business of making money by lending money. So, the more money you put down, the lower the risk, and the more lenders like your deal.

And, that's not all. If you have enough cash for a large down payment, then more choices open up to you! You can choose conventional fixed rate loans, adjustable rate mortgages, VA, FHA, graduated payment mortgages and all the variations of each of these programs.

By the way, when you combine a good-to-excellent credit score with a large down payment, you'll definitely get positive attention from loan officers!

Acceptable Sources for Down Payment Monies

In general, lenders want to see adequate funds available for a period of at least sixty (60) days in your account. The usual methods of proof of these funds are either a Verification of Deposit form or two months' worth of your most recent bank account statements.

So, if you're person who keeps money "under the mattress" or somewhere in your home, this isn't acceptable. It has to be deposited in an account (bank or investment) for at least two months (preferably longer).

In technical terms, this is called "seasoning." And the reason behind it is this: First, by having money in an account, it shows you have to ability and discipline to save money and, thus, are a good risk from the lender's point of view. Second, it demonstrates that the money is likely yours and not a personal loan from a family member or a friend. Lastly, and obviously, it shows you have enough money on hand for a down payment.

In general, here are sources you can use for a down payment:

• Checking account
• Savings account
• 401k account
• IRA account (have to meet specific guidelines)
• Money market account
• Stocks
• Bonds
• Mutual funds
• Certificates of deposit and other liquid assets.
• Sale of an asset, etc.

Frankly, in this New Age of Frugality, the safest method is to simply save the money for a down payment. This teaches you financial discipline which is good for all aspects of your life, and it means you don't have to rob other assets to pay the down payment.

'd be happy to discuss and suggest many different ways of obtaining down payment money. Contact me today.