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Kitchen being re-imagined

4 easy ways to spruce up your kitchen or bathroom

What's the most popular room of the house? Is it the living room, the go-to place for rest and relaxation? Or maybe it's the dining room, where the family frequents for conversation after another day at school or the office.

It's hard to say for sure - but it's safe to assume that a case can be made for the kitchen or bathroom - two areas of your home you may want to consider sprucing up.

In a 2018 Houzz poll of professional remodelers, 75 percent said more of their work involved helping homeowners reduce the amount of clutter in their kitchens. In a separate poll among baby boomers, 47 percent said they wanted to change the layout of their bathrooms so they were more conducive to aging in place.

Home improvement projects can run the gamut in terms of costs: from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars. People often finance them through home equity lines of credit, as rising home values are helping more Americans realize that homeownership truly is the best investment. Renovation mortgage loans offer the option to wrap the cost of renovations into your mortgage, which can give you better repayment terms than many loan options for the renovations alone.

There's always something to be said for do-it-yourself projects too, which don't necessarily have to be expensive to be transformative. Here are a few suggestions that can help you revive the look of your kitchen and/or bathroom without much fuss:

Paint the sides of doors

Is your bathroom stuck in a color rut? White may have seemed like the best color for the walls and tile. That may be your preference, but something is still missing.

To inject just a hint of flare to the room, consider painting the sides of the door, BuzzFeed advised. Whether it's a bright yellow or an audacious red, that little bit of color that's viewable whenever the door is wide open or slightly ajar can provide the extra pizzazz you're looking for quickly and easily. You might consider doing the same to sides of drawers in the bathroom or kitchen.

Place mouthwash in a decanter

You can't help but feel like something is out of place when cotton swabs, soap dispenser and toothbrushes are in their own special containers, but the mouthwash is still stuck in the same bottle you found it in at the grocery store. BuzzFeed suggested placing mouthwash in a decanter, which can help complete the decorated toiletry ensemble.

Smooth out the ceiling with a screwdriver

Popcorn may be great to eat, but it's not exactly the most visually pleasing of ceiling surfaces, having bumps all over the place. More formally known as stucco, popcorn ceilings were once all the rage, but they're a trend of the past.

To take the bumps out, all you need is a flathead screwdriver, according to the Family Handyman. Using one to canvass the entire ceiling is pretty labor-intensive, but it will make painting a straight line where the wall and ceiling meet much easier. It will also give you an idea of what the ceiling would look like completely texture-free.

Make use of mirrors

Mirrors are pretty magical. In addition to making a small room appear larger, they help reflect light, so that a dark space appears brighter. Talk with an interior designer about the best places to position mirrors, particularly in your kitchen.

Small changes can make big differences when sprucing up your bathroom, kitchen or any other room of your house. Consider implementing some of these modest modifications to your place. They may serve as inspiration for what to do next.

Things to Consider

Modern craftsman-style home

5 architectural styles to consider in your homebuying journey

What does your ideal home look like? Is it in a rural setting, or perhaps someplace more urban? Does it have a white picket fence or an underground one so your pets can roam free?

There's no right or wrong answer. But one thing you may not have considered regarding your next home is its architectural style. What kind of house do you envision buying for you and yours?

The building styles of residential properties nationwide run the gamut. Here are five of the more common ones today’s homebuyers typically purchase and what makes each so desired.

1. Craftsman

It's safe to say you've seen craftsman-style houses before, given that they're the most popular kind among Americans, favored by 43 percent of respondents in a recent Trulia survey. Craftsman properties trace back to the 19th century and were a product of the industrial revolution and the arts and crafts movement.

As noted by Marika Snider of the American Institute of Architects, these properties are epitomized by several common structural characteristics, such as stone and wood. In other words, they usually make use of natural elements as opposed to artificial siding, for example. This style is ideal if you like the rustic look, such as exposed beams in the interior or fireplaces.

2. Colonial

When you think of the picture-perfect home straight out of "Anne of Green Gables," colonial probably springs to mind. As the name implies, colonial-style homes came about in the 17th and 18th centuries, as settlers in the colonies adopted what they were used to in England and other parts of Europe.

Although there are several subcategories of colonial - such as Federal and Revival - they're known for architectural symmetry and proportionality. Shuttered windows are a common accompaniment as well, according to DIY Network.

3. Ranch

Unlike colonial, the ranch-style got its start in the United States, mainly in the West and Southwest, becoming particularly commonplace in the 1940s. As noted by Home Stratosphere, ranches are typically one-story and lengthier than they are tall. They're ideal if you prefer not to deal with stairs.

According to House Beautiful, ranch architectures also usually have low rooflines and U-shaped floor plans.

4. Cape Cod

Located in the easternmost section of Massachusetts, Cape Cod is one of the most popular vacation destinations in America, but it also is the birthplace of the eponymous architectural style.

Home Stratosphere noted that the early settlers adapted the style from Colonial Revival, mainly for protective purposes, as the dimensions were effective in minimizing the effects of stormy weather. Cape Cod style houses are generally thought of when describing New England charm.

5. Modern

Modern-style houses are the counter to the architectural styles of the early days. Instead of gable-style roofs, for example, modern home roofs are typically flat or have a slight slope to them, Snider told the Huffington Post. They're usually found in fairly upscale neighborhoods and the interiors feature clean lines and high-quality craftsmanship, such as hardwood flooring, marble or granite countertops and brick fireplaces.

These are just a handful of the house styles out there. Your real estate agent can help you decide what shape fits you and your family best and your loan officer can help you determine what you can afford.


Person meditating

How to create a good habit and stick to it

According to U.S. News & World Report, 80% of the resolutions set on New Year’s Eve are broken by February. If you have already failed at keeping the goal you set for 2019, don’t worry. You can still form a good habit (or break a bad one) by following some simple rules to keep you accountable!

Small Steps Add Up

Make sure that your habit is small, specific, and achievable. You can always build on your habits later, but in the beginning stages remember that small steps add up. You don’t want to start by completely depriving yourself from something because you will set yourself up for failure. For example, if you are hoping to reduce your spending so you can make a large purchase in the future, start by brewing your own coffee in the morning and packing your lunches Monday through Thursday.

Use Your Momentum

Try linking your new habit to a pre-existing habit you already have. This will make you accountable and keep you on a regular schedule. Use the formula: [Before/after existing habit], I will [new habit]. So, if you are trying to pack your lunches during the week, you might consider packing your lunch as soon as you finish eating dinner.

Little Rewards Go a Long Way

Reward yourself along the way to reinforce your habit. Most people forget to reward themselves for taking steps towards beneficial habits. Many positive habits, like eating healthier or exercising, do not have immediate obvious rewards, so it is important to reinforce your progress with rewards of your own. If you're trying to pack your lunch Monday through Thursday, you may want to treat yourself to lunch out with friends on Friday. This will keep you from feeling deprived so you are more likely to stick to your goal.

Never Miss Twice

You are going to slip sometimes. Just because you fell off the wagon one day doesn’t mean that you failed and should give up. Try following the “Never miss twice” rule to give you enough flexibility to make mistakes, but inspire you to get back on track the next day. Maybe you had a rough morning and bought yourself coffee on the way to work and went out for lunch today. No problem. Tomorrow you will brew your own dark roast and pack your leftovers to eat. It’s okay to fail, just make it a goal not to do it two times in a row.

Forming a new habit can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Make sure you set up specific goals and have realistic expectations. Reward yourself as you make progress, and stop expecting perfection. Habit forming is a journey, and you are going to make mistakes along the way. Don’t beat yourself up, just do better the next day and remember why you wanted to adopt the habit in the first place.

You've got this.

Things to Consider

Woman's eye looking forward

What will the housing market be like in 2019?
With 2018 rapidly coming to a close, you may be wondering what the housing market will look like in 2019 - especially if you're considering a home purchase.

Real estate is a lot like the stock market: It's an outlet for investment, valuable and highly unpredictable. What's happening in one part of the country may be a different story in another.

But if there are any authorities qualified to make some educated guesses on the subject, it's Freddie Mac and the National Association of Realtors.

Here's what these two esteemed organizations have to say about what lies ahead for the housing market in 2019.

Homebuying to pull back in 2019

For the most part, residential real estate purchases are forecast to continue where they left off in 2018 by further evening out. That's according to NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, who recently spoke at the 2018 Realtors Conference & Expo held in Boston. Yet despite the slowdown in buying, asking values will most likely continue their steady ascent.

"Ninety percent of markets are experiencing price gains while very few are experiencing consistent price declines," Yun explained. "2017 was the best year for home sales in 10 years, and 2018 is only down 1.5 percent year to date.

Yun further stated that, much like this passing year, the dip in homebuying activity will likely be rather temperate, as opposed to dramatic.

Making a similar prognosis about how things will shake out in 2019 is Sam Khater, chief economist at mortgage giant Freddie Mac. However, he's more inclined to believe that activity will pick up in intensity as the year progresses, particularly among millennials.

"While we expect the weakness in housing activity to extend the next few months as the market absorbs the recent uptick in mortgage rates, the combination of strong economic growth and millennials moving toward homeownership should help home sales regain momentum and rise modestly in 2019," Khater said.

Will mortgage rates rise or fall next year?

Among the biggest unknowns in the housing market are mortgage rates, given they fluctuate virtually every day. In early December - the most recent data available - 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.75 percent, down from the previous seven-day period (4.81 percent) but up compared to this time last year (3.94 percent).

What direction are they headed in 2019? Freddie Mac - along with most other housing authorities - suspect rates will continue to move higher, perhaps surpassing 5 percent.

Should rates indeed rise, it's important to stress that they're still rather low in comparison to previous years. As recently as October 2008, 30-year FRMs were above 6 percent, based on archived Freddie Mac data. And in the late autumn of 1990, long-term FRMs averaged approximately 10 percent.

In other words, in terms of borrowing money, interest rates remain very affordable and are expected to stay that way for the foreseeable future.

As for how much the typical single-family house will sell for in 2019, Yun predicted the median will reach $266,800. That's a 3 percent increase from 2018, but below the $274,000 anticipated in 2020. In short, "home price appreciation will slow down … but prices will continue to rise," Yun said.

All real estate is local, so while these predictions on the housing market are informed opinions, the best source to go to on the housing climate in your area is your trusted Loan Officer. They should be able to give you a more nuanced picture of what conditions will be like in 2019.

Helpful Tips

model house with a red snow hat on its roof

Tips for heating your home more efficiently this winter

According to the Department of Energy, heating and cooling account for almost 50% of the energy used in a typical American home. Since heating your home is most likely your largest energy expense, take some time to make sure that you are doing it as efficiently as possible. Read on for some tips to keep your home toasty and your utility costs down, the environment and your wallet will thank you.

Keeping the cold air out is just as important as keeping the warm air in

  • Find and seal the drafts in your home with caulk and weather strips.
    • Caulk is used for cracks between stationary parts of your home like door and window frames while weather stripping is for moving parts of your home like doors and operable windows.
    • Some places to look for drafts are attic access doors, outlets, doors, plumbing entrances, windows, and chimneys. Click here ( for a checklist from the Department of Energy to make sure your home is sealed top to bottom.
  • Make sure your home is well insulated, including your attic. Click here ( for a checklist from the Department of Energy on insulating your home.

Air circulation matters

  • Reverse your ceiling fans so they rotate clockwise. This will draw rising warm air down.
  • Change your furnace filters monthly to ensure efficiency.
  • Make sure your furniture is not directly in front of vents so the warm air can circulate.

Timing is key

  • Use your curtains correctly. Open your curtains during the day to take advantage of the heat from sunlight. Close your curtains just before the sun goes down to keep the cold air out at night.
  • Install a programable thermostat to drop the temperature down 8-10 degrees while you’re at work or sleeping.

​Hoping you have a toasty warm winter, no matter the weather outside!

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