One question you may often have in your home is when will be the right time to renovate things? The kitchen is one of the most important rooms of the house. You may wonder how often you need to make updates to your kitchen. If your kitchen is 30 years old or more, it’s almost a sure bet that you’ll need to renovate. There’s some other sure signs that a kitchen needs some updating. Whether you’re getting ready to sell your home in the future, or you just want your home to be in the present, there’s a few signs it needs updating: 

The Kitchen Was Designed For One Cook

If your kitchen was built before a certain year, it’s a good bet that it was designed for only one chef. The kitchen is probably separate from the dining quarters as well. In the present day, couples often cook together. The dining and kitchen areas are also often one in the same.

Your Appliances Are Old

Newer kitchen appliances are much more energy efficient and can do a lot more than their older counterparts. Anyone who is searching for a home would relish the idea of saving money on utility bills and knowing that reliable appliances are already present in the home. There’s no need to spend money in the immediate future on replacing appliances for anyone who buys the home. New kitchen appliances that are a must:

  • Microwaves that serve as a vent hood or second oven
  • Energy Star refrigerators that dispense water and ice
  • Dishwashers
  • Under-cabinet units
  • Flat screen TV mounts

The Kitchen Isn’t Very Functional

Of course you use your kitchen to cook in, but it’s important that a kitchen functions well. The better designed a kitchen, the easier it is to clean and cook. Newer kitchen are also more likely to be environmentally friendly which is good for everyone. This functionality also goes along with the countertop material. Today, people look for easy to clean counter surfaces including stones like granite and quartz. The storage in the kitchen also should be more functional with easy access and streamlined, pull-out drawers.   

Your Kitchen Looks Like Something Out Of History Books

If your kitchen is looking similar to that of what you’d see in a classic home design book, you might want to get on the task of updating it as soon as possible. Even if you can’t overhaul the layout of the room, you’ll want to make updates that bring the kitchen into the 21st century. These include countertops, floors, the sink, and the cabinets. Anything major in the room should be updated to keep it from looking dated. 

Whether you have set some money aside for renovations, or plan on refinancing your home, it’s a good investment to update the kitchen because the return is certain.

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If you’re planning to purchase a home in the near future, one thing’s for sure: You’ve got your work cut out for you! However, when you finally find the house of your dreams, the time and effort will be more than worth it!

Your to-do list will include calculating how much you can afford to spend on a house, obtaining a pre-qualification letter from a mortgage lender, and eventually comparing loan estimates.

One of the first things home buyers usually need to do before getting too caught up in their real estate search is to check their credit score. Your credit report, which is basically a detailed profile of your credit history, plays a major role in your ability to get approved for a mortgage and obtain favorable interest rates. Consumers are entitled to get a free copy of their credit report once a year from the three major credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Before applying for a mortgage, it’s highly recommended that you check the accuracy of your credit report. If it contains mistakes, inaccuracies, or obsolete information, that could affect your ability to get a mortgage — or obtain favorable interest rates and terms. Fortunately, errors can be disputed and corrected by the appropriate credit reporting company.

The Impact of Your Credit Score

The most widely used scoring system to determine a borrower’s ability (and willingness) to stay current on loan payments is called a “FICO score.” Depending on your credit history and bill paying habits, your FICO score can range from a low of 300 to a high of 850. If you’re wondering how your FICO score stacks up against other homebuyers and consumers in the U.S., the median FICO score was recently in the neighborhood of 721 (although that number fluctuates). That means 50% of borrowers are above that score and 50% fall below that mark.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the best mortgage interest rates are generally offered to borrowers who have earned FICO scores in the mid- to high 700s. If your credit score falls between the high 600s and the low 700s, the interest rates available to you may be somewhat higher.

Those who are saddled with a credit rating below the mid 600s may have difficulty getting approved for a mortgage. If you’re in that situation, your real estate agent or loan officer may suggest applying for an FHA loan rather that a conventional loan. Although FHA loans can be more expensive, the standards for getting approved are more lenient. These government regulated and insured loans also allow for a more affordable down payment of as little as 3.5 percent, as oppose to the “typical” down payment of between 10 and 15 percent.

Consider planting a living fence as an alternative to manufactured fences. There are benefits and disadvantages for both. Often vines, shrubs, small trees, and perennials are placed around manufactured fences anyway. So, why not go nature all the way!

A living fence can give you privacy and security, as well as seasonal change. For example, a living fence made of shrubbery can bloom in the spring, be leafy lush in the summer, produce berries and hips in late summer, brilliant colors in the fall, and reveal pleasant branch structure in the winter.

A living fence can be grown short (under 4-feet) or tall (30 feet or more) or any height in between. You can determine the width using your imagination or taste in plant material. You can tailor this living structure to your yard.

Usually, a living fence needs no building permit as some manufactured fences do. You need not worry about height or width or color limits. Of course, a call to Dig Safe 811 is necessary. Digging into neighborhood power cables is a big no-no.

You can plant shrubbery, small trees, ornamental grasses, perennials, and even vegetables and fruits or a combination of all to accomplish your desired effect. And you can do this with your neighbor, benefiting both sides of the fence! Robert Frost said it best with his Mending Wall.

Living fences tend to outlive manufactured fences by decades. Of course, living fences need water until established, a bit of annual feeding, and the odd pruning depending on plant material selected.

Europeans have been enjoying living fences for hundreds of years, calling them hedgerows. They have served as property line demarcations, windbreaks, shelter for birds and small animals for centuries.

Establishing a living fence can be labor intensive, but need not be planted all at once. A slower pace would let the fence mature while the planter considers further options. Nursery plants can be used as well as seeds and root cuttings. The desired privacy would, of course, dictate the closeness of the plantings.

There are multitude of plant choices to make a New England living fence, but the following are easy options:

  1. Pyramidal arborvitae are most often used in neighborhoods. They are hardy, can be pruned and sheared, and need very little maintenance. They can be grown as screens and windbreaks, but as evergreens they do not provide multi-season interest. They relatively inexpensive and can be planted in any configuration.
  2. Rugosa and Hansen roses have been used in beach plantings but will adapt very well to living fences. They are both extremely low maintenance and can be trimmed from a maximum height of 6 feet. They flower most of the summer, product red hips in the fall as well as yellow and red foliage. In the winter they are a thorney tangle of cover for birds. Depending on the species or cultivar, they bloom red, pink, yellow or white.
  3. Fragrant shrub honeysuckle is also easily maintained to a maximum of 10 feet and provides yellow and white spring flowers, then summer red berries cherished by birds, and yellow and red fall foliage. Winter shows interesting branch structure.
  4. Privet hedges are old standby’s but easily maintained and sheered to your liking. Small white flowers and occasional purple berries.
  5. Russia olive trees with their strong late spring aroma and slender gray foliage are also easily sheered to any height or just allowed to grow to 25 feet.
  6. Rose of Sharon bloom in late summer in shades of purple and blue and are easily maintained to any height or width desired.

There are many more species of plants that can be used in your fence. You can certainly mix and match, but have fun with the process. You’ll create something beautiful as well as practical.

If you’re planning to stay in your home as you age, or “age in place”, it’s wise to begin planning to renovate your home for your future self sooner rather than later. This will save you money and headaches down the road. I know it’s not an exciting topic of conversation to discuss aging and how to make your home more accessible. However, it’s certainly an important one. And even if you never use these features yourself, they are great to have in a home even if just for visitors, such as your parents.

Renovating before retirement ensures you have the cash flow to fund each change you make to your home. By making these changes now when you don’t need them, instead of as you go, allows you time to do research on best pricing and how to add features that will look seamless in your home. Just because you are “senior proofing” your home doesn’t mean it has to look like an assisted living facility.

The best, and arguably most important, place to start is in the bathroom. This is also a room that accommodations can double as accessible and chic. For example, a lipless walk-in shower, also known as the European Wet Room, eliminates the need to step up which can result in tripping. But it also opens up the room to appear more spacious and allow natural lighting to reach every corner. When renovating choose dimensions that leave enough room for a wheelchair to enter.

You may also want to consider adding a built-in shower bench. This could be a seamless tiled addition styled like a window seat or a chic wooden seat that folds up and out of the way. Grab bars don’t need to be an eyesore either. There are so many options on the market for bars that integrate with your bathroom’s style instead of looking like an afterthought.

When house hunting for a new home, look for one-level open floor plans. Open floor plans are very on trend and a feature many buyers are looking for anyways. They come with the added bonus of having plenty of room for someone in a wheelchair or walker to get around. If a home you are looking at has any hallways measure them to make sure they are wide enough to be accessible for these kinds of mobility aids.

Choosing a home that is a one-floor plan is another subtle way you can “senior proof” your home. Stairs can become troublesome when mobility becomes limited due to arthritis for example. A lack of a staircase to climb also means never having to buy a chairlift down the line. Potentially saving your future self-money and the integrity of your home’s decor.

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