Tracye Thompson | Triangle Real Estate, Stafford Real Estate, Dumfries Real Estate


Your outdoor lighting is perhaps one neglected area of your home. For both safety and beauty, the outdoors deserve a certain amount of attention when it comes to lighting. There are plenty of ways that you can make your outdoor lighting both welcoming and practical.


Layer It


Just as you would inside your home, you should try to layer your lighting. To do this, you should include many different kinds of lighting especially lighting that brightens the outside walls of the home, highlights landscaping elements, and even some overhead lighting.


Use Decorative Lighting


Decorative lanterns and lamps are an easy way to add lighting to your outdoor spaces. You can let them stand on their own, spread them out, or you can group them and line them up in certain areas like a wall or a table. Candles are also a great way to multi-purpose practical lighting with decorative lighting. 


Light Your Steps


It’s important to provide adequate lighting on stairs and decks. Anywhere that people can trip is a place that needs adequate lighting. Solar powered lights are perfect for these uses.


Use String Lights


String lighting hung overhead can be perfect for courtyards, decks, roofs, or even trees and shrubbery. If you don’t have anything to hang string lights from, you can always get creative using posts and planters. This is a great non-permanent solution for you to have some pretty lighting available.


Don’t Draw Too Much Attention To Your Property


While you want adequate lighting on the outside of your property, you also don’t want to draw attention to an area of your yard. The whole neighborhood doesn’t need to know that you’re out on your deck, hanging out. Choose lighting that provides an inviting glow without an overpowering brightness.            


Use Table Lamps


You may have thought that table lamps are only for the indoors, but think again. Your outdoor setup can be the same as your indoor setup. Put table lamps down on your outdoor tables for adequate illumination. Be sure that the lamps you’re using are rated for the outdoors. 


If you use the right techniques and always be sure that you’re following safety protocols,  you can find success with your outdoor lighting scheme. When your home is properly lit, the best part is that you’ll be able to enjoy the outdoors of your home much more thoroughly during seasonable times. You’ll also have an increased sense of security and comfort in and around your home. It’s well known that burglars are deterred from intruding on well-lit properties. Set up your outdoor lighting right and get the outdoor season off on the right foot.


Selling a home can be quick and seamless, particularly for an individual who crafts a property selling blueprint. Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you create a successful plan to sell your house.

1. Analyze the Local Housing Market

A seller who understands the housing market in his or her city or town may be better equipped than other sellers to achieve the optimal results during the property selling journey. In fact, this seller can use various housing market data and insights to make informed decisions time and time again.

For a home seller, it is important to review the prices of recently sold houses in his or her city or town. This individual also should find out how long these residences were available before they sold. With this housing market data in hand, a home seller can determine whether a buyer's or seller's market is in place.

Furthermore, a home seller should look at the prices of comparable houses in his or her city or town. This housing market data will enable a house seller to see how his or her residence stacks up against the competition and prepare accordingly.

2. Learn About Your Home's Strengths and Weaknesses

Consider what separates your home from other houses in your area. This will allow you to explore ways to showcase your residence to the right groups of potential buyers.

Look at your house from the buyer's perspective and think about why a buyer may choose to purchase your residence. Then, you can craft a buyer-centric home selling blueprint designed to stir up lots of interest in your home.

It may be beneficial to conduct a home inspection too. By performing a home inspection, you can learn about any underlying house issues. You next can address these issues before you add your house to the real estate market.

3. Collaborate with a Real Estate Agent

A real estate agent is a must-hire for a home seller who is unsure about how to create a successful property selling blueprint, and for good reason. This housing market professional can offer expert insights into the real estate market and home selling journey. By doing so, a real estate agent can help you make the best-possible decisions throughout the property selling cycle.

In addition, a real estate agent will do whatever it takes to help you get the best price for your residence. He or she will promote your residence to the right groups of potential buyers, set up property showings and open house events and much more. And if a buyer submits an offer to purchase your home, a real estate agent will help you analyze this proposal and determine whether to accept, reject or counter it.

Ready to list your home? Take advantage of the aforementioned tips, and you can develop a home selling blueprint and boost the likelihood of enjoying a successful property selling experience.


While working from home and making your own schedule, either freelance or as a contract worker, allows for a particular type of freedom and control of schedules, a dress codes, income limitations, and your life, when it comes to qualifying for a mortgage, your 1099-MISC status comes with some drawbacks.

The so-called “gig-economy” places workers squarely in the “self-employed” column with its tax breaks that reduce the bottom line, letting you keep more of the money you work for. Unfortunately, the mortgage banking industry has not completely caught up to the new reality. The challenge is differing between “provable” income while retaining the tax advantages of self-employment.

Conventional Mortgage Lenders

Typically, the mortgage industry bases your credit-worthiness on provable income. Underwriters (the folks tasked with determining your creditworthiness) use W-2 forms and tax returns to qualify homebuyers for a conventional loan. Without these standard forms, proving your income is difficult for many self-employed would-be homeowners.

Conventional lenders follow a prescribed formula to prove income and credit-worthiness, so many mortgage underwriters merely look at your after-tax and post-deduction income. The result for 1099 workers is a lower provable income than the reality of most entrepreneurs or self-employed workers situation. Certain expenses such as one-time investments in equipment or product, and some depletions or deductions for your existing home, add back into your income on paper, but qualifying with 1099 income requires extra effort on your part. 

Unconventional Mortgage Lenders

Conventional lenders offer conventional loans. These are loans qualified for selling on to FreddieMac or FannieMae. Alternative loans—those provided by smaller lenders and investors that hope to realize a better return than a conventional loan offers—might be a more likely option for the self-employed. These loans are not without some added risk. To make them attractive to investors, the interest rate on non-conforming loans typically is higher, and down-payment requirements might be higher as well. Some alternative mortgages with lower interest rates or lower down-payments might be available to self-employed borrowers with exceptionally great credit or an extensive portfolio. 

Qualifying

Plan two years in advance: position yourself to qualify for a loan. Once you know where you stand, you can work to move into better condition to qualify. Organize your books and keep accurate financial records. You need to prove your income, so use an invoicing system to show receivables. Often, lenders want to look at two or more years of both tax returns and bank statements. They want to see an average over 24 months to determine your annual income and your ability to pay your mortgage. Keep profit and loss statements, expense reports and a balance sheet. If your accounting is complicated, get professional help. Utilizing a professional bookkeeper and CPA might just save you money and show you have solid business intent.

Save up a more substantial down payment: The more you put down, the less you need to borrow. Showing consistent savings also proves your ability to set money aside and prioritize savings and spending.

Improve your credit score: Sometimes it seems your credit score doesn’t make sense. After all, the calculations and formulas used remain a mystery. You can make significant strides in increasing your score though, by paying attention to two things: payment history and credit utilization. 

  • Payment history is just what it sounds like—the history of how you pay your bills. Avoid paying late and try to pay early. Your payment history makes up more than thirty-three percent of your total score.
  • Credit utilization—the ration of how much credit you have available to how much you’ve used—is another large chunk of your score. If you have a credit card with $2500 available, and you’ve only used $250 (on average) you are using just ten percent of your available credit. On the other hand, if your card only has $250 available and you’ve used just $125 you have used half of the available credit. The higher the percent of your combined usage to your combined credit (all credit cards, personal loans, vehicle loans, etc.) the lower your score.
  • The remaining parts of your credit score relate to the length of time you’ve had credit, how many accounts are new, how often you apply for credit and a mix of other bits of information. To help this area, avoid applying for credit cards, car loans or personal loans (furniture, appliances, etc.) for the two years leading up to when you apply for a mortgage. When you pay off a credit card, cut up the card or put it away, but avoid closing the account. Older accounts have a higher point value compared to newer ones, even if you aren’t currently using them.

Start now working on your credit and establishing the best accounting practices to prove your income. Speak with a mortgage lender for information on what it takes to pre-qualify for a loan in your situation.


Moving to a new home can be both exciting and stressful -- especially if pets and young children are involved!

Fortunately, there are plenty of strategies for avoiding frayed nerves and keeping problems to a minimum.

Cultivate a Positive Mindset: Making a conscious decision to remain cool, calm, and collected throughout your move will set the stage for a more relaxed experience for everyone. Since stress and irritability can quickly spread from one family member to another, it's up to the parents to set a positive example for the kids. When you resolve to be patient and optimistic about how things are progressing, you'll tend to be more resourceful, encouraging, and solution oriented.

Be organized: Creating a priority list of tasks that need to be completed by a target date is an excellent strategy for staying focused and on schedule. There are a lot of details to attend to when you're moving, so it's usually necessary to have a written plan and a checklist of things to remember.

Here are three ideas to consider for avoiding confusion at your new home: Clearly label all boxes; make sure that screws and other fasteners for dissembled furniture are stored in an easy-to-find clear bag or container, and take a photo (for easy reference) of cable and Internet connections before disconnecting your TV, sound system, and computer equipment. That way, when everything needs to be reassembled and reconnected at your new home, the process will go much more smootly!

Some people tend to just throw odds and ends into boxes, hoping that all the "pieces of the puzzle" will somehow magically fall into place at their new home. Unfortunately, when you pack your belongings in a haphazard manner, frustration is always the end result.

If you really want to be super-organized, consider drawing a "furniture map" of each major room. That way, you can give copies of the plan to the movers and hopefully streamline the furniture setup phase at your new home. Another efficiency tip is to color-code your boxes to help make sure the right moving boxes end up in the correct rooms.

First-Day Survival kit: Since it's highly unlikely that you'll unpack all your belongings and supplies on the first day, it's always a good idea to pack toiletries, medications, a first aid kit, and cleaning supplies in an easy-to-reach place. Other things you might want to have handy in the car for the first day at your new home would be a vacuum cleaner, pet food, dog leashes, toys for the kids, stuffed animals, games, healthy snacks, and cold beverages.

Miscellaneous Priorities: Digital photographs and computer files can be securely stored on a portable hard drive or a free cloud storage service available through Google or Dropbox. As far as small valuables, such as laptops, jewelry, mobile devices, and important documents, it's generally recommended that you transport those items with you in your car -- preferably in a clearly marked box.


Ultimately, there is no surefire amount that you should spend on a house. The real estate market varies in cities and towns nationwide, and as such, the prices of houses fall across a broad range. Also, the condition and age of a house – as well as a homebuyer's budget – may dictate how much an individual is willing to spend on a particular residence.

As you search for your dream house, it helps to plan ahead as much as you can. Because if you have a homebuying strategy in place, you can determine exactly how much you can spend to acquire your ideal residence.

Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you get your finances in order before you kick off a house search.

1. Check Your Credit Score

Believe it or not, your credit score may have far-flung effects on your homebuying budget. And if you fail to review your credit score before you embark on a house search, you may miss out on an opportunity to purchase your dream house.

A low credit score may make it tough to get the mortgage you need to acquire your ideal residence. Thus, you may want to check your credit score and find ways to improve it before you begin a house search.

You won't have to break your budget to get a copy of your credit report from the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). In fact, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report annually from each of the aforementioned credit bureaus. Request a copy of your credit report, and you can learn your credit score.

Of course, if your credit score is low, you can always improve it by paying off outstanding debt. Or, if you find errors on your credit report, contact the credit bureau that provided the report so that you can get these issues corrected.

2. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

Pre-approval for a mortgage makes it easy to enter the housing market with a budget at your disposal. If you meet with a variety of banks and credit unions, you can get pre-approved for a mortgage sooner rather than later.

Remember, banks and credit unions employ friendly, knowledgeable mortgage specialists. Don't hesitate to ask these specialists about assorted mortgage options, and you can select a mortgage that perfectly matches your finances.

3. Consult with a Real Estate Agent

A real estate agent can make it simple to pursue your dream house. This housing market professional will help you narrow the price range for your dream house and ensure you can discover the perfect house without delay. Perhaps most important, a real estate agent is happy to negotiate with a seller's agent on your behalf, ensuring you can get the best price on any home.

Ready to start a home search? Use the aforementioned tips, and you can simultaneously look for your dream house and avoid the risk of paying too much to purchase your dream residence.




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