Designing a new space

How to design a new space and what you should consider when creating a vision board.

Green Building

Ecofriendly construction products that can help save money and energy while also making your home healthy for your family.

Selecting A Contractor

Top mistakes that homeowners make when choosing a contractor for their project.

First Time Homebuyers

There's more to think about than square footage when you're debating about moving into a home, especially in this market


A money saving water preserving alternative to traditional landscaping.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Get financing for your home & renovation: FHA 203k Loan

Purchasing a home in need of renovation can seem like a daunting task for a lot of reasons. One of which is the idea of financing the renovation costs. It's hard enough these days to qualify for the mortgage alone but tack on an additional loan to renovate and it can appear impossible. Well there's no need to worry about that anymore! The latest thing to hit the mortgage world is called a 203k loan which allows you to incorporate the cost of renovation straight into your mortgage, one loan, one payment, one process. It's actually been around for a while but now more and more homeowners are being informed of this loan.

It's amazing that it's taken this long to come up with a 203k loan. To give you all of the details I'll leave it to an article from because they sum it up very simply. I can also testify that the loan is legitimate, we have gone through the process on the contracting end for a handful of projects using it. On our end it is quite the pain, the paperwork for the contractor is beyond complex and over the top to say the least, but in the end it's a win win situation. The homeowner is able to get into the house and do the renovations they desire and we stay busy with work in a less than ideal economy.

Alright, the loan details...

Foreclosed properties can offer some great bargains, but they often require a fair amount of repairs to make them livable. Fortunately, there's an FHA program - the 203(k) loan - that enables home buyers to roll the purchase price and estimated cost of repairs into a single mortgage right up front.

The FHA 203(k) mortgage can cover repairs, improvements or both on a residential property. Unlike traditional financing, which typically requires separate loans to purchase the property, finance repairs and refinance everything into a long-term mortgage when the work is done, the 203(k) program allows everything to be financed through a single transaction.

Find a property, prepare an estimate
To qualify, a homebuyer needs to identify a property they wish to purchase, then come up with an estimate of the cost of the work that needs to be done. For this reason, the program can't be used for homes purchased at a foreclosure auction - you won't be able to fully inspect the property and come up with a reliable estimate beforehand. But it can be used to purchase an REO (real estate-owned) foreclosed property that's being offered on the market - a real estate agent who specializes in REO sales can be helpful here.

There are a variety of service that provide local listings of foreclosed properties available for sale, including the online listings of properties reclaimed by the four major government-affiliated agencies that insure mortgages - Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) - the FHA's parent agency.

A 203(k) is not limited to the purchase of foreclosed properties - it can be used for the purchase of any single-family home that needs repairs or that the buyer wishes to improve.

Loan based on improved value of property
Once a sales price has been agreed to and an estimate prepared of the cost of the repairs or improvements, an appraisal will often be required. Usually, an appraisal of the property's value after repairs or improvements are completed is all that is needed, but sometimes an appraisal of the as-is value will be required as well. In the case of HUD-owned properties, an appraisal may not be necessary - the agency's own listing of the market value, along with an estimate of needed improvements, is often adequate.
The loan is usually set to cover the appraised value plus the cost of the improvements, or 110 percent of the predicted appraised value of the rehabilitated property. In the case of older homes, a 10-20 percent contingency fee must often be included in the estimate of repairs.

Can cover home expansion
The rehabilitation work can be fairly extensive. These may involve adding extra rooms, converting a multi-unit building to a single-family home, or a single-family property to multiple units. Luxury items may not be covered in the improvements, but the work may include certain amenities such as the addition of a patio or deck.

Buyers can do some or all of the work themselves, but must be able to show they are qualified to do so. Self-contracting can also drag out the application process - using a licensed contractor will make things go much more quickly, though the homebuyer can still do some of the work once the contractor has prepared the estimate.

Streamline option for minor upgrades
For properties which need only minor work, the FHA offers a variation called a 203(k) Streamline, which provides loans of $5,000-$35,000. These can include painting, window replacement, basement refinishing, floor replacement or other improvements for which plans, consultants or engineers are not generally required.

Room Envy: Wine Cellar edition

Bring on the VINO! Whether you're looking for function or design or both the options are endless with wine cellars... like accessing it through a trap door in the floor like this one...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Room Envy, Kitchen edition

Light bright and airy these are perfect examples of a dream for anyone who loves to cook and entertain...

Luxury Homes in Disney World!

According to the Wall Street Journal, it's the latest idea from Disney, creating a development of luxury homes allowing for a new way to experience "Disney" and the Orlando area. The Golden Oak housing development will offer homes from $1.5 to $8 million. It is expected to hold 450 homes and a new Four Seasons hotel. There are plans for a clubhouse, parks, walkways, and a wet lands conservation all of which is expected to be completed in 8-10 years. Considering the fact that the area holds one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation it is quite an interesting marketing idea, no?

But it isn't the first time that Disney has created a housing development. Celebration was a 4900 acre community built adjacent to the theme parks in the mid 1990's. But it was a much different idea, there were apartments available for $600 a month all the way up to single family homes at $4 million. It encompassed an opportunity for a larger variety of people to move in, unlike the highly inflated Golden Oak resort community.

I'm not sure that I would take as big of a gamble considering the state of the economy and the housing market in general let alone the horrid housing market in the Orlando area! But it IS Disney... if anyone could succeed in such a venture it would be Disney, Oprah, or Donald Trump right?! So we shall see how this plays out.

All you need is a $25,000 deposit to get on the sales reservation list.

Planet Reuse: Reclaimed & Salvaged Materials for your project!

Stumbled onto a fantastic website today thanks to the NAHB. Planet Reuse is an excellent resource for builders, designers, and homeowners looking to find salvaged and reclaimed materials for their projects. I am a big fan of antiques and vintage goods. I love the idea of repurposing an old and unusual item or material and turning it into something new and relevant. Pair that with the green attitude of the country and you end up with a company like Planet Reuse.

Essentially they provide a place to track down and find materials that are taken from demolition sites. It's a win win for contractors, they can find a use for your project waste and turn one mans's trash into another man's treasure. They even document this for your LEED waste management program and will handle all of the shipping and storing.

On the other end of the spectrum, designers homeowners or builders looking for unique materials or just looking to save some money by buying recycled goods can check out their listings of available materials. They have all kinds of unexpected things like recycled granite that has been turned into pavers, hand hewn beams from old barns, you can even find old gym floor tiles! If you're looking for something in particular you can submit a request for materials.

As a wannabe designer myself I see it as a gold mine... the recycled clay tiles, the antique marble slabs, the cypress logs, the recycled church pews... it's like a creative designers dream and I can think of a million ways to turn these materials into a work of art in any home.

So support the green movement, builders check off your LEED standards of building, and take advantage of the vast amount of salvaged materials out there!

~5280 Lady

Monday, August 16, 2010

What does $258 Million buy you?

Well here in the Denver area it buys you an outstanding new judicial complex to house our Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and Attorney Generals office! There was a massive demolition today of the previous building. The previous building was the victim of outdated and shoddy building practice from years ago and was therefore destroyed to lend way to a new complex that will be up to date and up to the standards that Denverites expect, especially in a goverment building that our precious tax dollars are funding!

It just goes to show that even the big dogs and government gurus aren't exempt to poor contracting practices. That's why we keep hounding our clients and audience to do their due diligence and research the contractor for your project so that you don't end up on the short end of the stick.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Less Is More: a new approach in home trends

Here's a great video from the Today Show. It's a good take on the changes we're seeing in home construction. Less is more seems to be the new approach. Plus some great insight from Barbara Corcoran on what home improvements will add value vs the ones that wont.

Does It Add Value? Home Improvement Tips & Insight

A change in the tide: Renovation & Remodeling trends 2010-2011

As a result of the times people are changing the way they do things in their every day lives and those changes have now translated into the home improvement realm. There is an overall change in the tide with construction these days...

One of the biggest trends we've seen this past year has been the green movement. It started as a catch phrase but has grown into an actual movement since the downturn of the economy and job market. People are changing not only their lifestyles with food choices and exercise plans but they're also desiring a clean and healthy home for their family. Sustainable flooring and recycled building materials are a common request.

The next biggest trend we've seen in the industry is a scaling back of home improvement projects. In the past homeowners didn't put any thought into the future when they splurged on major home renovations. With the economy today homeowners are cautious of the future and want to make sure that they aren't going to lose their investment in their remodeling projects. They realize the possibility that they could become a victim of the poor job market and don't want to find themselves upside down, having to sell their home for less than they've put into it.

So with this cautious attitude we're seeing more and more small scale projects instead of the big home additions. Instead of gutting kitchens, tearing down walls, and purchasing top of the line appliances we're seeing more of a facelift approach. A lot of homeowners are re-purposing and reusing their exisiting cabinetry and flooring, updating only the countertops and fixtures. The same goes for bathroom remodels, adding some tile flooring, a new tub, and a fresh coat of paint is enough to get a noticeable update with a quarter of the cost.

Along those same lines of scaling back the focus of improvement projects has become "maintenance" projects. Replacing siding, windows, roofing, and doors to uphold the integrity of the home are common practice now according to Martin Conneely of Conneely Contracting.

Color is the new black! The color trends that are popping up seem to follow this overall lifestyle change to get back to the basics and back to our roots. The color pallets are broadening and earth tones and deep rich colors are popular. On the design side we're seeing these colors paired with a global influence in fabrics and decor. As the new year approaches expect to see a move toward simplicity and clean lines with more vivid and rich colors. "In 2010-2011, we’ll see a trend toward consumers choosing livelier colours to reflect their optimism in their quest for a brighter future.” says St├ęphanie Pelland, Marketing Communication Manager for the Sico brand and member of the international colour forecaster Color Marketing Group.

Check out the Home Renovation Guide for more insight into the upcoming design trends.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Room Envy: Cozy Great Room

I saw this picture and fell in love with the design and architecture. My favorite parts are the wood clad windows, the architectural beams, and the grand yet subtle fireplace. I love the simple color pallet, it allows for the room to stand alone without overdoing it. It feels cozy and bright and very homey!

Courtesy of Keith Waters & Associates, Inc.

~5280 Lady

Friday, August 6, 2010

Building for Energy Savings: 9 great tips

So I have to say thank you to Stewart Perry over at Planting Acorns for this list. He attended a U.S. Green Building Council and listened to a lecture from architect Norbert Lechner. Lechner is an energy expert who discussed energy efficiency and green building with the audience. Here's the 9 tips he gave to save energy straight from the building process.

Now before I go into the list I think it's important to realize here that it is crucial to start with the building blocks when making this transition to energy conservation. It is much harder and less effective to remediate problems after the building or home is already in place. A homeowner can switch out appliances, put in different windows, and add skylights after the fact but this is far more costly and your return on energy savings is far from ideal. The key is to make the home as efficient as possible DURING construction.

And from the guru, here's Lechner's take...

1. Building orientation/positioning (can reduce energy consumption by up to 50%) Just by positioning the building in a particular way on the lot and at the appropriate angle we can drop the consumption in half!

2. Building color (reduction up to 20%)

3. Window placement
4. Window size

5. Shading

6. Passive solar heating

7. Day lighting

8. Active solar heating

9. Photovoltaics (PV)

Design A Room, some great resources for decorating

I'm sure there are plenty of you that have grand ideas of home remodeling and decorating but it's often hard to picture the outcome. Well there are a lot of great things on the interwebs that can help you! Better Homes and Gardens has a great program called Arrange A Room where you can adjust every aspect of the room including furniture and even house plants to give you some help with your decorating ideas.

You pick the shape of your room, which you can adjust, and then start adding in the furniture. You can even change the colors! All you need is your email address and then you can get started.

Now if you're like me and have a heck of a time picking out the perfect paint colors there is also a wonderful program you can use through Sherwin Williams that will show you the paint choices on real walls in real rooms. You can adjust from there and change trim colors, ceiling colors, etc. It's called the Color Visualizer and I highly recommend it the next time you're looking to redecorate a room!

~5280 lady

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Decorating in tight spaces: Kitchen

So how do you amplify the amount of space in your home without jumping into costly additions? You have to master the art of decorating and renovating in tight spaces. There are a lot of techniques and tricks that you can use to make lemonade out of lemons, in this case, the tiny kitchen.

The first thing to consider in a small kitchen is the functional layout. There are dozens of kitchen designers that take factors into account to make the best use of your space. They think of things that you may not,  like positioning frequently used items and drawers higher to mimimize stooping and bending. You also need to consider the location of major appliances, are they eating into all of your counter space? Is there a better wall to place your refridgerator? Simply mounting your microwave can free up a good portion of counter space.

The next thing to do is to maximize your usable space. Cabinets that reach the ceiling offer more storage and give you a more suitable counter workspace. Specially designed storage can take wasted space and give it a purpose. Roll out features inside cabinetry will better organize your utensils, pots and pans, and double your storage.


Paint and color schemes will also make a notable improvement. Bright and light colors will open the area and make it appear larger. Consider adding splashes of color in a tile backsplash while keeping the rest of the space light and airy. 

Lighting is another simple way to create illusions. Whether through windows or lighting fixtures make sure the kitchen is bright! Not only will this help while you're actually using the kitchen but it will also help create the illusion of more space.

Design touches- Use reflective materials like mirrors and stainless steel to trick the eye into thinking there is more room than you have. Make sure rugs run length wise as opposed to width wise. Pick a deep kitchen sink to get more room to work without taking up any more counter space. Glass cabinet doors give the illusion of a bigger space too.