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Finance, Homebuyers
The Real Mortgage Rate – Or Is It?
Advertised rates look tempting, but don’t be fooled into thinking that’s the rate you’ll pay. You have to qualify to receive the best rates with excellent credit and work histories. According to, interest rates are the annual cost of a loan to the borrower expressed as a percentage. The annual percentage rate or APR, is the annual percentage plus other fees, including mortgage insurance, many closing costs, discount points and loan origination fees.  
The Federal Truth in Lending Act requires lenders to disclose the APR in advertising and in loan agreements. When you apply for a mortgage loan, the APR will be listed in the loan estimate your lender is required to give you. recommends that you get estimates from other lenders for the same loan, so you can compare fees. Compare the loan estimates by looking at page one under loan terms. You’ll find the APR on page 3 under “Comparisons.”
APR comparisons are easiest to understand if you’re applying for a fixed-rate mortgage. For adjustable rate loans or ARMs, APR estimates are based on the initial fixed rate period of the loan. While ARMs have rate-hike ceilings, the APR is much higher when interest rates rise during adjustment periods.
Lenders can charge consumers high or low interest rates, and they have flexibility in which fees they include or exclude in the APR, so compare interest rates and APRs carefully. If you don’t understand the purpose of any fee, ask your lender to explain.
Home Décor, Homeowners, Home Sellers, Homebuyers, Home Improvement, Lifestyle, Luxury
Add Pizazz to Your Bland Kitchen
Neutral kitchens are supposed to complement any décor, but they can become bland over time. What can you do to make your kitchen more exciting?
Make it artsy
Art galleries have neutral walls because they don’t compete with the art, so hang a colorful abstract painting in a key location. Have fun with artistic-themed dishtowels, placemats, and dishes, instead of classic motifs like roosters and other farm animals or Italian chefs with curling mustaches. Try a washable rug or runner with a colorful modern pattern.
Fold in some color
Neutral décor is decorating for the next occupant of your home, so put yourself first in items you can take with you when you move. Find your favorite color in cookware, serving pieces, utensils and small appliances to add cheerful interest to a neutral decor.
Add texture
If color isn’t your thing, interesting shapes and textures add vitality to neutral walls, backsplashes, curtains and blinds and kitchen seating. Natural wood accents like artisan-made bowls can also warm up a neutral kitchen.
Neutral doesn’t have to mean white or beige. For a soft contrast, introduce watery colors like sea glass. For more drama and sophistication, go for high contrast with deep blue, black or grey. Paint the island a different color from the rest of the kitchen, or paint lower cabinets a different color from the top cabinets.
You can still have a neutral kitchen, but pops of color, texture and artistic touches may provide changes you’ll really love.  
Homebuyers, Transaction Advice
How to Negotiate with Difficult Sellers
Before you submit an offer to buy a home, you don’t know how the seller is going to respond. Some sellers are challenging – they don’t want complications or compromises. They can demand all-cash offers, no inspections and for you to pay over list price. The only thing you can do is make it hard for the seller to be difficult.
Ask your Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network professional to contact the seller's agent to find out what the seller wants as far as terms, if they’re open to doing any repairs and if other offers are on the table. The seller will appreciate knowing you’re trying to craft a reasonable offer.
Consider the seller’s feelings and don’t be critical of their home. Keep your intentions to remodel or tear the house down quiet. Low-balling a seller will only make them angry, so make your offer fair.  Include a copy of your lender’s pre-approval letter, along with a cover letter summarizing your strengths as a buyer and why you love this home. You can also include a copy of the comparable market analysis you used to illustrate how you arrived at the offer price.  
If you ask the seller to extend the closing date or accommodate another contingency, be prepared to make a concession, such as a higher offer price or waiver on repairs. The more your offer matches up with the seller's needs in terms of price, move-out dates and closing, the more likely your offer will be graciously accepted. 
Home Improvement, Homeowners, Home Sellers, Homebuyers
Renting Out a Room in Your Home
We’re living in a sharing economy, says, so it should be no surprise that 69% of homeowners in a recent survey would rent out part of their home if it had a separate entrance, kitchen and bathroom and 32% have already rented out a room, space or outdoor feature on their property.
You can generate extra income by renting out a space in your home, but the price is a loss of privacy. You’ll be a landlord, so you’ll need to know about renting as a business, your community’s regulations and fair housing laws. recommends finding out about your homeowners’ association regulations, town zoning laws or ordinances, and fair housing laws. You may need a permit and may be required to provide a separate private entrance for the renter’s use, a private bathroom and a way for the tenant to lock up their belongings.
Renting to a roommate/housemate is a little different than typical federal fair housing laws allow. You can advertise for a male or female roommate, for example, if you’re sharing the house, but if you’re renting a separate space like a garage apartment, fair housing laws would apply.
Ask your homeowner insurance agent to see if you need extra or specific coverage. Keep careful records including utilities and maintenance costs to report the extra income correctly. Take photos of the space to show how it looks before a renter moves in.
To find renters, look for organizations such as college housing advocates,, and senior centers.

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