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in Helena


MASTER SUITE a haven within your home

Shaping up for selling? Tips for making your home more attractive to potential buyers.

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Sunday, May 1, 2011 ■ AT HOME IN HELENA


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If you are considering building a new home and you have an existing home to sell, come and talk with the professionals at Hamlin Construction. Hamlin Construction has licensed real estate professionals on staff who work with the other professionals from Century 21 Heritage Realty to save you money with special “Listing / Building” discount packages to assist you in the sale of your existing home and the design and building of your new dream home.

Hamlin Construction is a design/build company and has been building quality homes in the Helena area for over 37 years. We can offer to build you a new home from one of our many plans available in our files, or we can work with you in designing a new plan to fit your needs and help you stay within your timeframe and budget. Hamlin Construction has a selection of lots available in various locations to build your new home, or we can help you locate and purchase a lot with our in-house financing. Special discounts are available when purchasing one of our lot and home packages and offers our clients the convenience of “one-stop financing” which allows homebuyers the ability to construct their new home without the hassle of obtaining different loans on each project phase. Once the construction is complete our clients can turn over a “package deal” for permanent financing to one of the great local lenders in Helena.

Ask about ab bout o our ur s selling/building elli package discount and financing CALL TODAY FOR A FREE MARKET ANALYSIS OR A NEW HOME ESTIMATE.

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Page 2 Email: Professional Builders who build more than just good homes... We Build Trust

AT HOME IN HELENA ■ Sunday, May 1, 2011


Secret Garden Tour To Benefit The Original Governor’s Mansion Resotration Fund Sponsored by the Original Governor’s Mansion Restoration Society in partnership with The Montana Historical Society.

Sunday, June 26, 2011 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Six Lovely Helena Gardens Mansion Open House Musical Entertainment Marketplace TICKETS AVAILABLE AT: Leslie’s Hallmark Mountain West Bank The Montana Historical Society Museum Store FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CALL (406) 475-3617


$12 in advance $15 on Tour Day [at the Mansion] Children: 12 and under $5 Lunch: $12.50 [advance purchase only] Lunch catered by Chili O’Briens Page 3

Sunday, May 1, 2011 ■ AT HOME IN HELENA



in Helena

CONTENTS 6 7 8 10 12 14 16 19 20

Page 4

information about buying, selling, and maintaining your Helena home

Three steps to ensure you get the best deal when buying a house

22 24

The organized gardner

Landscaping lingo or wishy washy words

Good reasons to buy a house

Selling your house in tough mes

26 28

Edible... and elegant

How to create an edible landscape

Shaping up for selling

Real estate agents can help save buyers and sellers money

The master suite: a haven within your home

Best home improvements for your renova on dollars

Furniture of the 21st century

One step at a me—40 fresh ideas to keep it organized, room by room, all year long


Spring garden me


Benefits of so ened water


Common ques ons from firstme homebuyers


Wish list inventory



At HOME in Helena is published by the Independent Record 317 Cruse Avenue | Helena, MT 59601 (406) 447-4003 ©2011 Capital City Publishing Group.

AT HOME IN HELENA ■ Sunday, May 1, 2011

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Three steps to ensure you get the best deal when buying a house Ample inventory, low mortgage rates and motivated sellers–all these key elements are present in real estate markets across the country, indicating it's still a great time to buy a house. If you're thinking of buying a house –whether it's new or existing, your first home or your fifth–you can help ensure you get the best possible deal by doing a few things before you get down to serious shopping.


Check your credit You might think that getting preapproved for a mortgage is your first step in home-shopping, and it is an important one. But before you talk to a potential lender, you should check your credit report and score–because the mortgage company certainly will. Your credit score is a reflection of your credit status, and one that potential lenders will consider when assessing your credit worthiness. Knowing your credit standing can make you better prepared to secure the best possible conditions and rates for a home loan. It’s a good idea to monitor your credit for a while before making a move to apply for a mortgage. Websites like allow you to access your credit score when you enroll in credit monitoring. By monitoring your credit, you’ll be able to see how changes in your credit report can affect your score, and you’ll receive credit score alerts whenever your score changes.

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When it’s time to apply for a mortgage, many people turn to the banks they’re used to dealing with on a regular basis. While banks are definitely a familiar source of home financing, they’re not the only one. Even after the mortgage crisis, you’ll still find many companies in the home loan field. Wading through the plethora of claims from lending companies can be time consuming, but well worth it. Despite the credit crunch–or perhaps because of it–competition is fierce among lenders to work with the bestqualified buyers. That means if your credit score and report are good, you could be in a position to snag the loan terms and interest rates reserved for the most-desirable borrowers. But you’ll still have to compare rates and offers from a number of companies. Be sure to thoroughly investigate any lender you’re considering applying with; the Internet is a great resource. Check out the Better Business Bureau website to see if the lender has any complaints against them, and type the name into your search engine to see if they’ve made the news - in a good or bad way.

It’s true that many would-be homebuyers are now using the Internet to facilitate their search. Yet 79 percent of all buyers last year purchased their home through a real estate agent or broker, according to the National Association of Realtors. While it is possible to buy a home without the aid of a Realtor, working with one has several benefits. Realtors strive to be experts about the communities they work in, so a Realtor can provide you with valuable advice on home prices, schools, recreation and businesses, as well as other information about the area you’re interested in. Another bonus–as a buyer, you pay the Realtor nothing. He or she will share a percentage of the commission the home sellers pay to their Realtor.

Capitalize on Leverage a Realtor lender competition relationship

Buying a house is a big investment - the biggest most people make in their lives—but with some preparation and smart negotiations, you can ensure you're well positioned to take advantage of the current buyers' market.

AT HOME IN HELENA ■ Sunday, May 1, 2011

If you're like most first-time home buyers, you've probably listened to friends', family's and coworkers' advice, many of whom are encouraging you to buy a home. However, you may still wonder if buying a home is the right thing to do. Relax. Having reservations is normal. The more you know about why you should buy a home, the less scary the entire process will appear to you. Here are eight good reasons why you should buy a home.

Good reasons to buy a home

Pride of Ownership

Pride of ownership is the number one reason why people yearn to own their home. It means you can paint the walls any color you desire, turn up the volume on your CD player, attach permanent fixtures and decorate your home according to your own taste. Home ownership gives you and your family a sense of stability and security. It's making an investment in your future.


Although real estate moves in cycles, sometimes up, sometimes down, over the years, real estate has consistently appreciated. The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight tracks the movements of single family home values across the country. Its House Price Index breaks down the changes by region and metropolitan area. Many people view their home investment as a hedge against inflation.

Mortgage Interest Deductions

Home ownership is a superb tax shelter and our tax rates favor homeowners. As long as your mortgage balance is smaller than the price of your home, mortgage interest is fully deductible on your tax return. Interest is the largest component of your mortgage payment.

Property Tax Deductions

IRS Publication 530 contains tax information for first-time home buyers. Real estate property taxes paid for a first

home and a vacation home are fully deductible for income tax purposes. In California, the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978 established the amount of assessed value after property changes hands and limited property tax increases to two percent per year or the rate of inflation, whichever is less.

Capital Gain Exclusion

As long as you have lived in your home for two of the past five years, you can exclude up to $250,000 for an individual or $500,000 for a married couple of profit from capital gains. You do not have to buy a replacement home or move up. There is no age restriction, and the "over-55" rule does not apply. You can exclude the above thresholds from taxes every 24 months, which means you could sell every two years and pocket your profit–subject to limitation–free from taxation.

Preferential Tax Treatment

If you receive more profit than the allowable exclusion upon sale of your home, that profit will be considered a capital asset as long as you owned your home for more than one year. Capital assets receive preferential tax treatment.

Mortgage Reduction Builds Equity

Each month, part of your monthly payment is applied to the principal balance of your loan, which reduces your obligation. The way amortization works, the principal portion of your principal and interest payment increases

good reasons to buy con nued >> Page 7

Sunday, May 1, 2011 ■ AT HOME IN HELENA

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>> good reasons to buy con nued slightly every month. It is lowest on your first payment and highest on your last payment. On average, each $100,000 of a mortgage will reduce in balance the first year by about $500 in principal, bringing that balance at the end of your first 12 months to $99,500.

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Consumers who carry credit card balances cannot deduct the interest paid, which can cost as much as 18 percent to 22 percent. Equity loan interest is often much less and it is deductible. For many home owners, it makes sense to pay off this kind of debt with a home equity loan. Consumers can borrow against a home's equity for a variety of reasons such as home improvement, college, medical or starting a new business. Some state laws restrict home equity loans. See page 32 for more more first-time homebuyer information.

AT HOME IN HELENA ■ Sunday, May 1, 2011

times mean that home sellers need to do their homework, take a more assertive role in marketing their home and, at times, get creative to help their home stand out from others that are on the market. Regardless of how tough the times are, the fact remains that a nice home, well maintained, in a desirable neighborhood, and priced right will sell more quickly than a home that hasn’t been kept up or hasn’t been priced according to what other homes in the neighborhood would sell for. Whether you’re selling your home as part of downsizing your lifestyle or you’re seeking a larger home for a growing family, the following steps offered by, one of the nation’s leading online sources for real estate law, can pay dividends in helping you achieve a quick sale and a price that reaches your desired goal. ASSEMBLE YOUR TEAM. Most sellers prefer to work with a real estate agent or a lawyer at some point in the process. In fact, in a handful of U.S. states, a lawyer must help finalize the sale. Real estate agents typically charge a commission, about six percent, to be split between your agent and the buyer’s agent, if any. Lawyers normally charge by the hour. Despite the costs, experienced, responsible professionals can ultimately save you time, money and aggravation. CONDUCT A PRE-INSPECTION. Many states require a home inspection report as part of a disclosure form before placing a home on the market. To make sure your home passes the test, hire a third-party home inspector to conduct a preinspection of your home to help you make necessary repairs and updates before an official inspection. CONDUCT A COMP. A “comp” is shorthand among real estate agents for comparing your home to similar types of homes in your area with similar features, such as square footage, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, etc. This process will help you determine a price range for your home. To get comps, visit open houses, read classified ads (in print and online), and check out Web sites such as, by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). REVIEW ACTUAL SELLING PRICES. Of course, list prices don’t tell you how much houses ultimately sell for that’s the comparable data you really need. In a hot market, houses might go for well over list price, and vice versa. A number of Web sites offer such information, and you may

want to carefully watch county Web sites that publish this information for tax purposes. PRICE AGGRESSIVELY, BUT NOT TOO AGGRESSIVELY. As the seller, of course you would like to get every nickel out of selling your home. The balancing act is finding the right price where you don’t have to cut it multiple times to trigger an offer, or a price that is so low that a potential buyer might think there’s something wrong with it. GO TO OPEN HOUSES. Sellers need to understand what other sellers are doing and offering to sell their homes. The best way to do that is to go to as many open houses in your area and take note of who the potential buyers are, their feedback on nearby homes, and what other sellers are offering potential buyers in terms of price and incentives. MAKE YOUR HOME AS ATTRACTIVE AS POSSIBLE. Buyers will pay thousands of dollars more for a home that is tastefully decorated and appears in ready-to-move-in condition. The first place to start is to declutter your home. Put away any personal items or items of expression that would detract from a buyer feeling at home. A fresh coat of paint doesn’t hurt either. FILL OUT THE DISCLOSURE FORMS. Some states require sellers to fill out a long form that explicitly asks about the seller’s knowledge of various significant or material defects that might be present in the home, according to States vary in their requirements. Some states require sellers to disclose water in the basement, leaks in the roof, the use of lead-based paint, or unsafe concentrations of radon gas. Regardless of what your state requires, it’s really in the seller’s interest to disclose any previous problems to reduce the risk of a lawsuit in the future by a disgruntled buyer. ADVERTISE ON THE MLS. If you’re working with a real estate agent, the agent should help put the property into the online Multiple Listing Service, and maybe in the classifieds too. If you don’t have an agent, you can take the same steps yourself (one Web site,, allows you to put your house on the MLS for free). Interested buyers can then make an appointment to see the house in person. HOLD AN OPEN HOUSE. Many home sellers find open houses a useful tool. They’re certainly good for bringing in the crowds. In deciding when to hold an open house, look for opportunities when your area attracts a large number of people from surrounding areas, such as a neighborhood or citywide festival or sporting event. BE PREPARED TO NEGOTIATE. Because there are more sellers than buyers in most markets, buyers currently have more leverage in negotiating. Be prepared to respond to a range of concessions, from lower-than-expected offers and requests for the seller to cover the closing costs to decorating allowances and mechanical repairs. On the other hand, as the home seller, you should be prepared to counter by demanding that all serious offers have their financing in place to ensure a smooth sale. Page 9

Sunday, May 1, 2011 ■ AT HOME IN HELENA

Shaping up for selling? Tips for making your home more attractive to potential buyers BY ARACONTENT


irst impressions are important and the same holds true when you are showcasing your home for a potential sale. While larger home improvement projects are often necessary to catch the eye of someone in the market for a new home, they require a great deal of time and money. Sometimes simple cleaning and organization is all that is needed for your home to become more appealing to potential buyers. Home staging expert and TLC host Lisa Lynch says giving the perception of a clean home is of utmost importance for people looking to sell or rent their homes. “Presenting a sparkling clean property gives the impression that it was well maintained,” says Lynch. “This gives potential buyers and renters a feeling of security. Often they will pay a premium for a place that has been well-maintained and has a clean appearance.” Lynch offers these tips to impress your guests and convince potential buyers that you took outstanding care of your home:


Since first impressions are so important, having your home properly cleaned and staged will help you make a sale or rental more quickly and net the price you deserve.

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Begin by de-cluttering your home. By removing personal items that might distract prospective buyers, you’ll help them focus on how they think the home might look when they move in. You don’t want buyers to focus on possessions that you’ll be taking with you when you move.

AT HOME IN HELENA ■ Sunday, May 1, 2011


When showing your home to others, it’s best to set your personal tastes aside by decorating in a way that will appeal to a broad range of people. Think about replacing strong patterns with solid colors on items like bedding, carpets and drapes. It might also be a good call to store that dramatic piece of art somewhere out of sight. You can show it off again when you move into your new house.

are two rooms in particular that require special attention: the kitchen and the bathroom. In a recent survey, Mr. Clean asked consumers which room they would clean first if moving into a new home. Of the more than 1,000 participants, an impressive 41 percent responded the kitchen and 38 percent said the bathroom. When selling your home, it is always important to make the extra effort in these two rooms; you’ll never know if it will be a make or break a deal.

A photogenic home


Many potential buyers will make decisions on which homes they would like to look at by looking at photos posted online. Do whatever you can to make your home sparkle in the images you and your real estate agent select for your listing. Focus on glass and metal surfaces that will add shine to your photos. For other bathroom surfaces, a bath scrubber like Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Bath Scrubber should be used to remove easy-to-spot and unappealing grime and scum from bathtubs and showers. Thoroughly cleaning these surfaces in bathrooms and kitchens can make your home look fresher and newer.

Areas that must sparkle

While it’s important to keep the entire home spotless, there

Whether they know it or not, people entering your home will notice more than just appearances. Attractive scents can create good feelings. Candles, diffusers, potpourri and cookies all offer inviting and familiar aromas. Use a cleaner with a pleasant scent to keep your home smelling fresh.

Details matter

Eliminate any small imperfections that might cause uneasiness with potential buyers by replacing broken light bulbs, fixing loose doorknobs or getting your closet door moving smoothly on it tracks. Even something as minor as a little mess in the microwave could turn off a prospective renter or buyer, so make sure every place you can think of is squeaky clean.




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Sunday, May 1, 2011 ■ AT HOME IN HELENA

Real Estate Agents Can Help Save Buyers and Sellers Money


ecord-low interest rates and record-low housing prices are renewing interest in the floundering housing market for many people. Now could be the time to sell and buy a new home and earn an even bigger slice of the real estate pie. Whether an individual is a buyer or a seller, or doing both, his or her goal is to get the best financial deal on the home—and often that means having a qualified real estate agent working in his or her corner. Those entering the real estate realm may have misconceptions about what’s involved. Oftentimes, individuals think they can go it alone and save money on real estate commissions in the process. However, not having a knowledgeable agent to navigate the process can end up costing more money in the long run. An agent is not there just to open up houses for viewing or to simply put a forsale sign on the front lawn. Agents guide the seller or buyer through a complicated process of legalities and emotional hurdles. The agent also negotiates for the buyer and seller to help them make important financial decisions. When sellers are interviewing real estate agents to market their homes, their primary focus is usually on the advertising that the agent will offer them. Advertising is important, but, once sellers have an offer, they need a strong negotiator to help them get the best price and terms. Buyers should also look for agents who have strong negotiating skills and neighborhood knowledge which will help them make the most of their purchasing power.” Individuals can expect a real estate agent to help them navigate a process that, to first-time buyers or sellers, can prove intimidating. Page 12

BUYING A HOME 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

Schedule a consultation to discuss what features and amenities buyer is looking for in a home. The agent may suggest buyers speak with a mortgage consultant to figure out their buying power and obtain a mortgage pre-approval letter. The agent will then look up home listings in a particular price range and help the buyers to view the homes. When buyers find a home they want to purchase, the real estate agent will help them come up with a fair market price and write up the contract to present to the seller. The agent will help the buyer negotiate on the final price with the seller. In some states, the agent will accept a down payment to place in trust or work with a real estate attorney on behalf of the buyer. The agent may be present during a home inspection, which is recommended. The agent will then schedule the home appraisal. He or she will then confirm the closing and be present at closing with the buyer and the attorney, if necessary.

SELLING A HOME 1. The real estate agent will meet with the sellers and evaluate the home and property. 2. He or she will do a market analysis to figure out the best price to list the house based on the neighborhood and comparable sales. 3. The agent may make suggestions for repairs or improvements that can help make the home more attractive to buyers. 4. The real estate agent may present a marketing plan that indicates where the home will be advertised. 5. He or she will write up a listing agreement and begin the process of marketing the home. 6. An open house for real estate brokers may be scheduled, also a caravan of brokers from the agents’ own real estate office and surrounding affiliates. 7. An open house for buyers will be scheduled. 8. The agent will field calls from other agents and notify the seller when a viewing request has been made. 9. Follow-up feedback can be offered, which may include information the agent receives by making calls to people who viewed the home or by tracking how many potential buyers viewed the home listing. 10. When an offer comes in, the agent will notify the sellers and advise him or her of the negotiation process. 11. The agent will be present during the home inspection, if the buyer requests one. 12. The agent will schedule with the city or town to have a certificate of occupancy inspection conducted. 13. The seller will be notified by the agent when the buyer has obtained a mortgage commitment and made good faith deposits. 14. The agent will likely be present at the home closing with the real estate attorneys. Individuals buying or selling a home can certainly do it by themselves, but real estate agents have the knowledge and provide assistance through the myriad steps of the process, helping individuals to save time and money.

AT HOME IN HELENA ■ Sunday, May 1, 2011

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Sunday, May 1, 2011 ■ AT HOME IN HELENA

This year’s color trends are inspired by everyday life

The master suite:

a haven within your home


he master bedroom has evolved into far more than a place where you hit the pillow and grab a few hours of sleep each night. Today, it’s almost a misnomer to call these modern, multi-functional rooms bedrooms. If you’re looking to renovate, expand or build a new master bedroom, think “master suite” instead. Don't just create a cozy room meant for sleeping, because in recent years it really has turned into so much more. The growing trend of making the master suite one of your immediate family’s choice gathering spots stems from a flagging economy and the fact that more people are choosing to enjoy Page 14

leisure time at home instead of out on the town. And believe it or not, many are choosing to spend it in the master bedroom. “The master bedroom has increasingly become a restful retreat within your larger home—a place where you can spend the day, if you wish, with all the comforts of a traditional family room,” says Donna Schroeder, color marketing and design manager for Dutch Boy Paints. “The trend is to combine comfort with convenient amenities in an atmosphere that is peaceful and relaxing.” One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to look to sumptuous hotel suites for your design

inspiration. Plush, comfortable and full of luxuries –big and small – hotel suites offer plenty of ideas you can mimic. You say you like coffee first thing in the morning? Why go down to the kitchen? Install a coffee bar, complete with an espresso maker, coffee grinder and a mini refrigerator to store milk for those extra-foam lattes. Don’t expect to lounge on the bed with your cappuccino in hand. Reserve space in your design for an ample sitting area where you can put a sofa, comfortable reading chairs and even a state-of-the-art entertainment system for movie nights and lazy Sundays. Add a built-in customized

AT HOME IN HELENA ■ Sunday, May 1, 2011

entertainment center to house the latest and greatest gadgets for everyone in the house. You’ll want to have room not only for the flat screen HDTV and Blu-Ray player but also the kids’ gaming system, DVR receiver and a nook for Dad's sound system. You might also want to include shelves for Mom’s prized collection of romantic old movies so she can watch them in the comfort of her bedroom haven. You can picture it already, can’t you? First, however, you must set the stage for this oasis, using a serene palette of color and textures to accent the space and create a true sense of retreat. The first consideration? Paint and the color it provides. Your choice of paint will create the canvas that complements and highlights all of the room’s other design features. “This year’s color trends are inspired by everyday life, making them versatile in any setting, including a master suite,” Schroeder says. “One collection that works especially well

is one that reflects a practical way of life–a true functionality.” In this palette, texture is key and colors are soft and faded. Windswept and washed effects, as well as monochromatic layering, set off this modern collection. Inspired colors from Dutch Boy’s innovative Color Simplicity System include Boardwalk Blue, Composed Bloom, Spruce Hollow and Range Brown. Another palette working its way into the contemporary master suite is one that revolves around technology– which also reflects the modern amenities that are incorporated into these living spaces. In Dutch Boy’s “Abyss” trend for 2011, soft neutrals and grays complement the true serenity of a master suite and the reflective alone time you appreciate when you’re away from today’s sometimes overwhelming abundance of technology and instant communication. Consider such hues as Dutch Boy’s Gargoyle Shadow,

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Fresh Linen, Pursuit of Happiness and Piccolo. Nothing ties a room together better than luxurious design elements like custom-made fabric headboards and coordinating bedding in silks, Egyptian cottons and other natural fibers. Think mix-and-match when it comes to furniture—eclecticism rules in 2011. The pervasive influence of steampunk, a quirky mix of old and new,makes it perfectly fine to blend a contemporary platform bed with an ornate, Victorian dresser. The style is flea market meets high-end, and it looks great. “Life moves at a rapid-fire pace these days, and a master suite is one place where you can get away from the hustling pace and just take a deep breath,” Schroeder says. “When creating your sanctuary within your home, take time to consider all the design options so you can have a space where you can escape from responsibilities, deadlines and outside noise and simply just relax.”



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Sunday, May 1, 2011 ■ AT HOME IN HELENA Bedroom skylights offer privacy plus natural light with an ever-changing view of the sky both night and day.

Best home improvements for your renovation dollars


omeowners renovate for two basic reasons: money and fun. Or, more precisely, they undertake home improvements to improve their home's resale value or their enjoyment of their house. The best home improvements, however, are ones that deliver on both objectives.

Americans will spend nearly $141 billion on remodeling in the first half of this year, according to Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies. If you’ll be among the many homeowners opting to improve, rather than move, you may be wondering what renovations are likely to give you the best balance of enhanced resale value and immediate enjoyment.

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AT HOME IN HELENA ■ Sunday, May 1, 2011

Here are five home improvements, from budget-friendly to big budget, that provide noteworthy return on investment (ROI) in terms of increased value and improved enjoyment:


You can lower your electric bill by installing skylights that will reduce dependency on artificial light and fill your home with natural light. You can obtain quality, energy-efficient, “No Leak Skylights” from Velux for around $800 per unit for a standard fixed skylight with flashing kit. You can find a local installer to provide a customized cost estimate at www. In terms of positive energy, the mental and physical health effects of exposure to natural light are well documented. They’re also an effective privacy preserver for bathrooms where you might not want a wall window. Skylight and sun tunnels (skylights that use reflective tubes to bring sunlight into rooms without direct roof access) not only enhance the energy efficiency of your home, they just may make you feel better about living there.


Whether you go for wood or composite, adding a deck is a great way to boost resale value, expand your living space

and up your enjoyment of your home environment. On average, homeowners who add a wood deck can expect to recoup more than 80 percent of its cost when it comes time to sell, according to Remodeling Magazine’s 2009-2010 Cost vs. Value Report. Composite deck additions return about 71 percent at the time of resale.


It makes sense that the room where most families spend the bulk of their time would be a popular remodel - and one that pays off big in terms of value and comfort. Even a minor kitchen remodel - costing about $21,000 - will return about 78 percent of its value on resale, according to Remodeling Magazine. A major kitchen job, costing around $57,200, will recoup about $41,200, or 72 percent.


Whether you’re tackling a major job that involves knocking out walls and changing fixtures, or just making cosmetic improvements like upgrading faucets and repainting, remodeling a bathroom goes straight to the heart of our craving for comfort. Americans view their baths as far more

home improvements con nued >>

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than a place to get clean and take care of other necessities. Even if you’re not creating a home spa, improving the bathroom is sure to boost your home’s resale value and increase your satisfaction with the room. Remodeling Magazine says the average bathroom remodel costs around $16,100 and returns up to 71 percent of that cost at the time of sale.

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AT HOME IN HELENA ■ Sunday, May 1, 2011

Furniture of the 21st Century BY ANDREA AMBROSE, ASID Andrea Ambrose Interiors


Harmony is achieved with similar color tones, yet different pa erns and textures.

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new standard in home furnishings is being set. When you design furniture for your home, selecting the size and shape of each piece, covering it with fabrics that compliment your space and personality, you can create a unique and beautiful home. The process should be fun, exciting and fit within your budget. Exquisite custom details like blind tufting, luggage stitching, contrast welting, fringe and even nailhead color gives pieces a beautiful custom look. There are a few companies that offer these nearly limitless options and special applications on great, high quality designs, at no additional cost to the customer. Once consumers and interior designers know that this is available in their community, they seek out those businesses for the best value and choice in home furnishings. Some furniture showrooms offer virtual “Design Studios” using touch screen computers to enhance the consumers’ shopping experience. The interactive features enable customers to select from hundreds of fabrics and drape them over sofas, chairs, and ottomans. Pillows and welting can then be added in coordinating fabrics to give texture. Many of these sites also offer designer tips to coordinating fabrics and frame styles. These virtual Design Studios are easy to navigate and provide consumers with a ‘snapshot’ of what their custom furniture will look like before it is ordered. The Internet is a wonderful place to research products, but everyone should sit in a chair before buying it. Most virtual Design Studios offer a dealer locator so you can find the closest showroom in your area. It is always a good idea to take some time to visit these showrooms to see what new fabrics and frames are being offered that may not currently be available on the website. Working with professional sales staff can help you perfect your color and style choices, answer any questions regarding construction, quality, comfort and fabric cleaning as well as show you other options that may be available. It is most important to find the furniture that fits your style, comfort, and price. Many times, you don’t need to go too far to find it and shopping for furniture in the 21st Century makes it easier, more fun and truly one-of-a-kind. Page 19

Sunday, May 1, 2011 ■ AT HOME IN HELENA



40 fresh ideas to keep it organized, room by room, all year long

Clothes belong in your dresser, not on your bed. Making it every day forces you to put away the clothes you may have piled atop it.



1. To create an airy, inviting space and a positive first impression, have a landing pad for things like keys and mail. “Trays are my all-time favorite home accessory. Even the most utilitarian items can look purposeful and tidy when they’re collected on a tray,” says Oma Blaise Ford, a senior deputy editor at Better Homes and Gardens. Too many catalogs clu ering the office. Sign up at 41pounds. org to get off junk-mail lists. BY DAWN KLINGENSMITH CTW Features


t starts in hidden spaces like drawers and closets. Before long, it spills out and takes over horizontal surfaces and even entire rooms. It’s household clutter, and it breeds to the point of chaos. Clutter can seem overwhelming, but it’s simply an accumulation of things to be dealt with one item or corner at a time. Here are 40 fresh ideas for reclaiming your living space and restoring order. Whether you take baby steps or go the distance with comprehensive spring-cleaning, you can achieve a sense of calm where chaos once prevailed.

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2. Inside the coat closet, “Those over-the-door shoe organizers with all the pockets are genius, especially the clear ones, for stowing items that leave the house with you like hats, gloves, dog leashes, travel chargers and sunglasses,” Ford adds.


3. Buy a bench with under-the-seat storage and a high back with hooks for hanging outerwear.

5. Hang a towel by the door so you can wipe the dog’s muddy paws. 6. Keep a box on hand for items you plan to donate. Put it in your car when full and drop it off on your next outing or when your errands take you by the thrift store.


7. Visit to use the “fresh tester” and pitch any spice that’s past its prime. 8. To create more usable counter space, take your knives out of the wooden block and put them in a drawer or on a wall-mounted magnetic knife holder. 9. Use square or rectangular food storage containers in your fridge and pantry. They fit into the corners and optimize space better than round ones.

10. Purchase space-saving, interlocking plastic storage containers and 4. Pegboard above the bench provides added storage space for sports collapsible kitchen gadgets like equipment, ball caps and backpacks. colanders, funnels and measuring cups, says Dana Korey, founder of Away With Clutter in San Diego.

AT HOME IN HELENA ■ Sunday, May 1, 2011

11. Store extra trash bags in the bottom of a wastebasket so when you take out the garbage, there’s a new bag waiting to line the can.

Family Room

12. Start using a “penalty box” for toys or belongings that kids leave

there’s no last-minute scramble to find team jerseys and coordinating socks, Korey suggests.

Command, recommends professional organizer Diane Albright, All Bright Ideas, Emmaus, Pa.

17. Use over-the-door or under-thebed shoe storage containers with clear windows or pockets to store small toys, such as Barbie dolls and

24. Kitchen flatware trays are handy for keeping makeup supplies organized.


In the laundry area, keep a container on hand for items found in pockets prior to washing, in addi on to a pair of scissor to snip any loose threads.

out. Items that end up there are then off-limits for a specified period or can be earned back by doing an extra chore, suggests Donna Smallin, author of “A to Z Storage Solutions” (Storey Publishing, 2008). 13. Don’t let magazines pile up because you intend to read one or two articles out of each. Clip the articles instead and put them in a “grab and go” reading file. “Next time you have to go to the doctor or are waiting to pick up your kids, bring the file with you and read while you wait,” Korey says. 14. While it’s not necessary to rearrange your home library according to the Dewey decimal system, do designate a shelf for unread books and for those you refer to often.

Kids’ Bedroom

15. Put labels or pictures on drawers or cabinets to teach young ones where to put things back. 16. Have a designated drawer for uniforms and activity attire so

their accessories. 18. In the nursery, a crib trundle provides for tucked-away storage space.

Master Bedroom

19. A lot of us share our beds not with family members or pets but with reading material and clothing. The solution: Make the bed every morning. “It forces you to clear off and put away any clothes that you may have tossed there,” Korey says. 20. Bed risers, sold at most big-box stores, elevate your bed to create more storage space underneath.


21. Store only frequently used items in the medicine cabinet, and put the rest under the sink or in a drawer. 22. Place a rectangular container in the medicine cabinet so you can stand tubes up and gain shelf space. 23. Hang necklaces on the inside of the medicine cabinet door using damage-free adhesive hooks by

25. If you rotate purses and also tend to accumulate hand lotion from hotels, take a few minutes to put a bottle in each handbag. Do the same for lip balms and pens.

Clothes Closets

26. After an initial purge, hang all the “keepers” and “maybes” the opposite way over the closet rod. Once you wear and launder a garment, switch its hanger back to normal. Put a note in your calendar to purge again in six months to a year, and get rid of all the items that are still reversed. 27. UDesign is a free, downloadable closet-design tool at closetmaid. com that enables you to click and arrange components to your satisfaction, and then print out your plans and parts list. 28. Keep a small box with a Sharpie marker on a shelf to store all the extra buttons that come with new clothes. Use the marker to write a brief garment description on each button enclosure, Albright suggests.

Linen Closet

29. Relocate sheet sets to the bedrooms where they belong. Tuck them in a drawer or on a closet shelf, or between the mattress and box spring (in a single layer, not stacked), Albright suggests. 30. Keep shared laundry hampers at the bottom of the closet – one each for whites, lights, darks and possibly reds – and either remove hampers from bedrooms altogether or have family members pitch in on laundry day by consolidating and presorting the dirty clothes from their rooms.

Hang clothes opposite ways to separate the ‘keepers’ from the ‘maybes.’

Laundry Room

31. Hang scissors near the washer and dryer to snip loose threads. 32. Keep a container for buttons and items found in pockets prior to laundering.


33. Use the walls, not the floor, for storage. 34. Use a clean garbage can to contain sports balls. 35. Keep potentially hazardous chemicals together in a locked compartment. 36. When buying storage cabinets, make sure the doors will open when your car is parked inside. 37. Clean garden tools thoroughly for winter storage. Remove rust with steel wool and coat metal parts with a protective spray lubricant.

Home Office

38. A pretty napkin holder can be used for time-sensitive mail like bills and invitations requiring an RSVP. Arthur Court and Alessi offer nice designs at department and home stores. 39. Sign up at to stop receiving 80 to 95 percent of unwanted catalogs and junk mail. 40. Find out where in your area to recycle electronics and all manner of household items at 1800Recycle. com.

Page 21

Sunday, May 1, 2011 ■ AT HOME IN HELENA

Think color: From le , a trim, verdant boxwood basil and Brandywine heirloom tomatoes from Burpee; and Bright Lights Swiss chard from Renee’s Garden

The Organized Gardener


ardening may be on hold until planting season arrives, but that doesn’t mean a gardener’s imagination is at rest. Inspiration is everywhere. Seed catalogs beckon with glossy photos of baby lettuce, supermarket produce displays challenge green-thumbed shoppers to dream of even better home-grown crops, and lists of new plants offer endless ideas. For anyone who experienced a harsh winter, the vision of a lush garden is dangerously compelling. “When it comes to the vegetable garden,

Get a grip! Spring plan ng daydreams can lead to murderous thoughts about zucchini come summer’s end. This season, plan a garden of measured delights. Here’s how to plant with a purpose


people design … way beyond their means,” says Robert F. Polomski, extension horticulturist at Clemson University, Clemson, S.C. Overly ambitious plans can sabotage a gardener’s efforts, he says. Before purchasing a single seed packet, develop a season-long plan, the best way to save money, time and energy. Here’s what to consider: THE SITE. For a vegetable garden, choose a spot that gets at least six hours of sunlight a day.

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AT HOME IN HELENA â– Sunday, May 1, 2011

It should be in sight, so it’s in mind, says Jennifer R. Bartley, a landscape architect and gardening writer who lives near Columbus, Ohio. “If you don’t see it, you don’t work it,� says Bartley. Do a reality check. Plotting a garden on paper is helpful, but actually measuring the space is essential, says Polomski, author of “Month by Month Gardening in the Carolinas� (Cool Springs Press, 2006). A 10-by-10-foot garden is a good starting point. Set up stakes and run twine around them. Walk through the area and imagine a garden. “This space will command your attention from spring through the fall,� says Polomski. He says this technique can rescue an overly ambitious plan before a single seed is planted, “tamping the fantasy� of a large garden. Can’t decide between perennial herbs and flowers or annual vegetables? Cultivate two smaller plots. That way perennials will not be disturbed when it’s time to yank out annuals in the fall, says Bartley, author of “The Kitchen Gardener’s Handbook� (Timber Press, 2010). THE CROPS. Every seed packet looks mouthwatering in nursery displays. But “a vision of trying to feed the neighborhood might not be realistic,� says Polomski. Instead, decide what you want from your garden and focus on that. If it’s saving money, tomatoes (especially heirloom variet-

Laura Cook 406.465.2728

ies), lettuce and herbs from seeds are great bargains. If it’s feeding the family, “plant what you love to eat,� says Bartley. List the vegetables you cook with most often and grow those. Spice up the basics with new varieties or assortments. For an abundant return from a limited space skip spreading vine plants, such as squash and watermelon, and opt for carrots, onions, broccoli and leafy greens. If a short growing season is an obstacle, be sure to check with the local county extension service for the best produce for your region. THE TIMETABLE. Sow and sow again. That’s the new strategy for maximizing a season’s harvest. You can use this technique to even out harvest times. “It doesn’t make much sense to plant all your beans at once and get a bucket full of beans,� says Renee Shepherd, founder of Renee’s Garden, Felton, Calif., which sells seeds to garden centers, nurseries and online. For example, sow seeds for spring cool-season lettuce, arugula, parsley, chives, spinach and other leafy greens, after the last danger of frost and the ground can be worked. Save some seeds and sow more two weeks later. Use a similar strategy for warm-season beans, cucumber and squash, starting when night temperatures hit 50 to 55 degrees. Add more seeds every two weeks, for a total of two or three plantings, until July, says Shepherd. Succession sowing can bring variety to the garden and the table. Š CTW Features

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Sunday, May 1, 2011 ■ AT HOME IN HELENA

Landscaping Lingo or Wishy Washy Words When you think about the subject of words, what do you think about? Whatever you think about, I will bet that you are thinking in words about words. Are they important? Is every word as important as every other word? If not, why not? What makes words have differing values and meanings? People, the most communicative beings on earth, employ words for a good deal of that process. Words are used to convey all sorts of ideas, desires, feelings, plans, etc. One important area of communicating is that of buying and selling. It is here that I would like for you to consider the importance of and the quality of words. Having spent over 40 years in the landscaping industry, I have given a lot of thought to the way we use words. I have concluded that there are indeed few other industries that have a lingo all their own that is as flexible and, in many ways, nonsensical. If you are a realtor or a builder or auto mechanic, or dentist you are in industries that have hundreds of words and phrases that are defined in law or have

Page 24


recognized industry meanings that are legally recognized and therefore, enforceable. Imagine a realtor telling a client that he is going to set up an “escrow account” to hold the $30,000 that the client gave him as “earnest money” as per the terms of a “Buy/Sell Agreement.” There would be some serious consequences brought to bear for this realtor if he cashed the client’s check, hid it under his mattress and then claimed “That is my escrow account.” Every step, every form and nearly every word in this real estate transaction has “industry” and legally accepted meanings. Your dentist, mechanic and pharmacist all have manufacturer’s or government licenses, ethical standards and/or board certifications. Layer after layer of consumer protections. Calling on a Landscaper? Let the rough and tumble artistry of words begin. What’s it mean when he says, “We are going to build a rock garden over here” or, “The soil prep will be $2,450” The only legally defined and commonly understood term he used so far is “two-thousand, four hundred and fifty

AT HOME IN HELENA ■ Sunday, May 1, 2011

dollars.” We can go on with “flagstone patio,” “pond,” or “flower bed”, but you get the picture. These are terms that cannot be easily understood by everybody. Their definitions vary widely within the landscape industry and the most valiant attempts to bring any uniformity to the conversations result in definitions that can cover a wide range when we get into the real world: Your yard and your checkbook. Space will not permit me to go into all of the difficulties of coming up with industry standards for these words and processes. Suffice it to say that because landscaping is a wonderful mixture of the artistic and the technical. There are many ways of expressing the artistic and adequately achieving the technical. Throw in all the variables produced by geography, soils and climate... need I say more? Why is this important? If you are going to hire a landscape professional (another undefined term) to do work on your yard it is going to be an expenditure in the thousands, often the tens of thousands of dollars. Buyer and seller should not be speaking two different languages while discussing a major expenditure. It is not like the car dealer delivering the wrong model car that you can just simply take back for an exchange or refund. Whatever the landscaper does, for better or worse, you will, in most cases, just have to live with. So be sure to spend time washing through the wishy of the lingo as you choose the best professional to help you with your landscape.

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Sunday, May 1, 2011 ■ AT HOME IN HELENA

Edible… and Elegant The best vegetables and herbs pull double duty, gracing the garden and the dinner table.


n Rosalind Creasy’s lush gardens in Los Altos, Calif., vivid dahlias share the stage with geraniums and cherry tomatoes, tulips coexist with delicate lettuce leaves and deep purple cabbages live in harmony with plump blueberries. This fantastical-meets-practical approach to gardening has made Creasy a rock star in the world of garden landscaping. She has written 18 books, including “Edible Landscaping” and “Cooking from the Garden.” The second edition of “Edible Landscaping (Now You Can Have Your Gorgeous Garden and Eat It Too)” was published in November and is already in its second printing. For Creasy, combining edible and decorative plants is a perfect approach to gardening. “It changes your life and puts you in and touch with the earth, and with the seasons and with other people,” she says. “I

can grow beautiful roses and people will come and ask if they can pick them for their table. But when they come and pick my cherry tomatoes for a fresh salad, it’s a different kind of connection.” When Creasy first started teaching people about edible landscaping more than two decades ago, it was considered a radical approach to gardening. “For a long time, there has been such a distinct line between the people who produce food in this country and the people who produce plants,” she says. “Growing plants was mainly about weed control and disease control. There was no thought to aesthetics. There was always an emphasis on production for food, and beauty for ornamentals.” Creasy says there was also a disconnect between people who were gardening and people who were cooking. “That’s changing, too,” she

Image courtesy Rosalind Creasy

A decora ve garden border with le uce and other salad greens.

BY DEB ACORD Content That Works says. “Now, there are so many cooks who have their own gardens. In the world of food, they’ve realized that fresh is really fresh.” In the gardens that surround her home, an ever-evolving mix of vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers offer a lush landscape. “If I weren’t me, I would envy me,” Creasy says. “My house has a lot of windows that look out on the garden. I’m fed by looking at beautiful things, just like I’m fed by beautiful music.” Creasy changes her garden twice a year. Coming up: a small wheat crop; different colors of bok choy; cilantro, carrots, lettuce, onions, scallions and a vast blanket of tulips and daffodils in purples, yellows and reds. A giant Mexican sage engulfs an arbor, and strawberries welcome visitors to her front door. Andrea Bellamy is also planning her next garden project in Vancouver, B.C., about 700 miles north of Creasy’s gardens. Like Creasy, Bellamy focuses on growing edibles that are pleasing to the eye as well as the palate. She is the author of “Sugar Snaps and Strawberries: Simple Solutions for Creating Your Own Small-Space Edible Garden” and writes about gardening on her blog, Bellamy says her favorite vegetable plants are peas and beans, not just for their taste “but also because they create fabulous screens and make great use of vertical space.” She says she often experiments with plants and edible flowers, and

edible and elegant con nued >> Page 26

AT HOME IN HELENA â– Sunday, May 1, 2011


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Sunday, May 1, 2011 ■ AT HOME IN HELENA

HOW TO CREATE AN EDIBLE LANDSCAPE Think about size, form, texture and color, Creasy says. “Some people design their garden on paper. Others are good at visualizing things. I can close my eyes and see what something is going to look like.” To help visualize the end result, Creasy reminds beginners to always trust the tag on a new plant. “It might be a Burpee cute li le six inch plant, but it will grow into a three-foot monster by summer.” Bellamy suggests aiming for a variety of leaf shapes and plant forms – consider climbing and cascading plants along with slim or tall ones. Learn about your soil type. Soil is usually made up of sand, clay and loam. If you have clay or sand or a combina on, you’ll need to add organic material, Creasy says. Play with colors. Creasy suggests choosing between subdued tones or intense shades. For a roman c look, combine pastels with silver-leaved plants. For energy, use colors opposite each other on the color wheel – purple and yellow, or red and green. For a calming effect, consider shades of the same color. Bellamy likes to use colorful varie es of edibles – bright rhubarb and peppers, purple cabbages – and suggests grouping similar plants together throughout a garden. These edible plants are especially a rac ve in a garden: Beets Cabbage Chives Fennel

Strawberries Runner beans Sage Rhubarb

Le uce Basil

>> edible and elegant con nued she says she makes “a nice lavender shortbread.” Both seasoned gardeners suggest beginners start small as they experiment with their gardens. “I call herbs ‘edible plants with training wheels,’” Creasy says. “They can make quite an impact on your kitchen. Thyme, lemon thyme, sage, chives, parsley and cilantro can make all the difference in your meals.” “Herbs are easy to grow,” Bellamy says. “And because they are so pungent, most repel damaging insects while still attracting other pollinators.”


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Spring Garden Time Few things are anticipated more in spring than the arrival of new leaves on the trees and budding flowers in the garden. A landscape awash with fresh colors can brighten the spirit and make anyone want to head outdoors. There are many different plants that begin to show their colors in the spring. A number of perennials, annuals and trees begin to flower or show new sprouts come the springtime. Here are some plants that can be planted for springtime enjoyment.



Looking for first signs of color? Look no further than these wonderful annuals.

These plants will come back year a er year and offer spring shows.

Alyssum: Star ng in April, this cascading bounty of ny flowers offers a sweet aroma that a racts bu erflies. Dianthus: These vivid flowers also a ract bu erflies and are o en a co age garden staple.

Cherry Blossom

Gypsophila: Also known as baby's breath, these delicate flowers can serve as filler in any landscape. Pink and white varie es are available. Impa ens: One of the best-known plants for the garden, these annuals come in scores of colors and can generally tolerate full sun to full shade.

Pansy: These flowers are some of the earliest spring bloomers, arriving alongside spring bulbs like tulips.

Columbine: These beau ful blooms a ract bu erflies and can be a nice part of a garden bed. Jacob's ladder: Variegated foliage that is dappled with violet-colored flowers can add a sweet smell and visual interest to the garden. Primrose: These flowers come in a variety of shades, making them versa le in any garden. They also tend to a ract bu erflies and hummingbirds. Sweet violet: These fragrant flowers are edible as well as a rac ve. These plants can self-plant, so unless a gardener wants them to spread, they should be kept contained.

Petunias: Petunias put on a show of color through the en re season, making them a popular bedding flower.



Larkspur: Belonging to the bu ercup family, these flowers bloom in shades of white to violet.

Cherry blossom: The flowers that sprout on cherry trees are some of the first signs of spring. Their pink or white buds are o en a spectacle, so much so that towns and ci es hold cherry blossom fes vals.

Page 29

Sunday, May 1, 2011 â&#x2013; AT HOME IN HELENA

Benefits of softened water BY TOBY MALSAM, Service Manager, Culligan


he water softener industry has done a great job educating consumers on the need for softened water. Water has been analyzed for years, with scientific proof on the benefits of softened water. The Water Quality Association has conducted two separate independent studies. The Battelle Study evaluated energy savings from water upon appliances. One result was that gas storage tank water heaters could lose up to 24 percent energy efficiency with hard water. A second study on Detergent Savings found that detergent use can be reduced by 50 percent and washing can be carried out in cooler water (60 degree F) with softened water; yet yield better stain removal and whiter clothes in comparison to hard water. Water softeners have also improved efficiency through better technology. Softener products that claim to be salt-free fall short of truly softening the water; this can only be achieved through ion exchange in a water softener. Do your own research and check out the testimonials of consumers who have tried these products. Use the Water Quality Association at as another resource to find out more about benefits of softer water.












AT HOME IN HELENA ■ Sunday, May 1, 2011

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Sunday, May 1, 2011 ■ AT HOME IN HELENA

Common Questions from First-time Homebuyers Why should Wh h ld I b buy, iinstead t d off rent? t?

ANSWER: A home is an investment. When you rent, you write your monthly check and that money is gone forever. But when you own your home, you can deduct the cost of your mortgage loan interest from your federal income taxes, and usually from your state taxes. This will save you a lot each year, because the interest you pay will make up most of your monthly payment for most of the years of your mortgage. You can also deduct the property taxes you pay as a homeowner. In addition, the value of your home may go up over the years. Finally, you’ll enjoy having something that’s all yours - a home where your own personal style will tell the world who you are.

What are “HUD homes,” and are they a good deal?

ANSWER: HUD homes can be a very good deal. When someone with a HUD insured mortgage can’t meet the payments, the lender forecloses on the home; HUD pays the lender what is owed; and HUD takes ownership of the home. Then we sell it at market value as quickly as possible.

Can I become a homebuyer even if I have I’ve had bad credit, and don’t have much for a downpayment?

ANSWER: You may be a good candidate for one of the federal mortgage programs. Start by contacting one of the HUD-funded housing counseling agencies that can help you sort through your options. Also, contact your local government to see if there are any local homebuying programs that might work for you. Look in the blue pages of your phone directory for your local office of housing and community development or, if you can’t find it, contact your mayor’s office or your county executive’s office.

Are there special homeownership grants or programs for single parents?

ANSWER: There is help available. Start by becoming familiar with the homebuying process and pick a good real estate broker. Although as a single parent, you won’t have the benefit of two incomes on which to qualify for a loan, consider getting pre-qualified, so that when you find a house you like in your price range you won’t have the delay of trying to get qualified. Contact one of the HUD-funded housing counseling agencies in your area to talk through other options for help that might be available to you. Research buying a HUD home, as they can be very good Page 32

deals. Also, contact there d l Al t t your llocall governmentt tto see if th are any local homebuying programs that could help you. Look in the blue pages of your phone directory for your local office of housing and community development or, if you can’t find it, contact your mayor’s office or your county executive’s office.

Should I use a real estate broker? How do I find one?

ANSWER: Using a real estate broker is a very good idea. All the details involved in home buying, particularly the financial ones, can be mind-boggling. A good real estate professional can guide you through the entire process and make the experience much easier. A real estate broker will be well-acquainted with all the important things you’ll want to know about a neighborhood you may be considering... the quality of schools, the number of children in the area, the safety of the neighborhood, traffic volume, and more. He or she will help you figure the price range you can afford and search the classified ads and multiple listing services for homes you’ll want to see. With immediate access to homes as soon as they’re put on the market, the broker can save you hours of wasted driving-around time. When it’s time to make an offer on a home, the broker can point out ways to structure your deal to save you money. He or she will explain the advantages and disadvantages of different types of mortgages, guide you through the paperwork, and be there to hold your hand and answer last-minute questions when you sign the final papers at closing. And you don’t have to pay the broker anything! The payment comes from the home seller - not from the buyer. By the way, if you want to buy a HUD home, you will be required to use a real estate broker to submit your bid. To find a broker who sells HUD homes, check your local yellow pages or the classified section of your local newspaper.

How much money will I have to come up with to buy a home?

ANSWER: Well, that depends on a number of factors, including the cost of the house and the type of mortgage you get. In general, you need to come up with enough money to cover three costs: earnest money–the deposit you make on the home when you submit your offer, to prove to the seller that you are serious about wanting to buy the house; the down payment, a percentage of the cost of the home that you must pay when you go to settlement; and closing costs, the costs associated with processing the paperwork to buy a house.

AT HOME IN HELENA â&#x2013; Sunday, May 1, 2011

When you make an offer on a home, your real estate broker will put your earnest money into an escrow account. If the offer is accepted, your earnest money will be applied to the down payment or closing costs. If your offer is not accepted, your money will be returned to you. The amount of your earnest money varies. If you buy a HUD home, for example, your deposit generally will range from $500$2,000. The more money you can put into your down payment, the lower your mortgage payments will be. Some types of loans require 10-20 percent of the purchase price. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s why many first-time homebuyers turn to HUDâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s FHA for help. FHA loans require only 3 percent down - and sometimes less. Closing costsâ&#x20AC;&#x201C;which you will pay at settlementâ&#x20AC;&#x201C;average 3-4 percent of the price of your home. These costs cover various fees your lender charges and other processing expenses. When you apply for your loan, your lender will give you an estimate of the closing costs, so you wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be caught by surprise. If you buy a HUD home, HUD may pay many of your closing costs.

How do I know if I can get a loan?

ANSWER: Use our simple mortgage calculators to see how much mortgage you could payâ&#x20AC;&#x201C;thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a good start. If the amount you can afford is significantly less than the cost of homes that interest you, then you might want to wait awhile


smaller home

a bigger yard

home office

longer. But before you give up, why donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t you contact a real estate broker or a HUD-funded housing counseling agency? They will help you evaluate your loan potential. A broker will know what kinds of mortgages the lenders are offering and can help you choose a lender with a program that might be right for you. Another good idea is to get pre-qualified for a loan. That means you go to a lender and apply for a mortgage before you actually start looking for a home. Then youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll know exactly how much you can afford to spend, and it will speed the process once you do find the home of your dreams.

How do I find a lender?

ANSWER: You can finance a home with a loan from a bank, a savings and loan, a credit union, a private mortgage company, or various state government lenders. Shopping for a loan is like shopping for any other large purchase: you can save money if you take some time to look around for the best prices. Different lenders can offer quite different interest rates and loan fees; and as you know, a lower interest rate can make a big difference in how much home you can afford. Talk with several lenders before you decide. Most lenders need 3-6 weeks for the whole loan approval process. Your real estate broker will be familiar with lenders in the area and what theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re offering. Or you can look in your local newspaperâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s real estate section, most papers list

common ques ons con nued >>



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Sunday, May 1, 2011 ■ AT HOME IN HELENA

>> common ques ons con nued

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interest rates being offered by local lenders. You can find FHA-approved lenders in the Yellow Pages of your phone book. HUD does not make loans directly; you must use a HUD-approved lender if you’re interested in an FHA loan.

In addition to the mortgage payment, what other costs do I need to consider?

ANSWER: Well, of course you’ll have your monthly utilities. If your utilities have been covered in your rent, this may be new for you. Your real estate broker will be able to help you get information from the seller on how much utilities normally cost. In addition, you might have homeowner association or condo association dues. You’ll definitely have property taxes, and you also may have city or county taxes. Taxes normally are rolled into your mortgage payment. Again, your broker will be able to help you anticipate these costs.

So what will my mortgage cover?

ANSWER: Most loans have 4 parts: principal: the repayment of the amount you actually borrowed; interest: payment to the lender for the money you’ve borrowed; homeowners insurance: a monthly amount to insure the property against loss from fire, smoke, theft, and other hazards required by most lenders; and property taxes: the annual city/county taxes assessed on your property, divided by the number of mortgage payments you make in a year. Most loans are for 30 years, although 15 year loans are available, too. During the life of the loan, you’ll pay far more in interest than you will in principal–sometimes two or three times more! Because of the way loans are structured, in the first years you’ll be paying mostly interest in your monthly payments. In the final years, you’ll be paying mostly principal.

What do I need to take with me when I apply for a mortgage?

A Heritage Alive in Helena


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ANSWER: Good question! If you have everything with you when you visit your lender, you’ll save a good deal of time. You should have: 1) social security numbers for both your and your spouse, if both of you are applying for the loan; 2) copies of your checking and savings account statements for the past 6 months; 3) evidence of any other assets like bonds or stocks; 4) a recent paycheck stub detailing your earnings; 5) a list of all credit card accounts and the approximate monthly amounts owed on each; 6) a list of account numbers and balances due on outstanding loans, such as car loans; 7) copies of your last 2 years’ income tax statements; and 8) the name and address of someone who can verify your employment. Depending on your lender, you may be asked for other information.

common ques ons con nued on page 37 >>

AT HOME IN HELENA â&#x2013; Sunday, May 1, 2011

WISH LIST INVENTORY The Basics 1. What part of town (or country) do you want to live in? ___________________________________ 2. What price range would you consider? No less than _______ but no more than _______ 3. Are schools a factor and, if so, what do you need to take into consideration (e.g., want specific school system, want kids to be able to walk to school, etc.)? _________________________________ 4. Do you want an older home or a newer home (less than 5 years old)? _______________________ 5. What kind of houses would you be willing to see? ___ One story ___ 2 story ___ split foyer ___ bi-level ___ tri-level ___ townhouse or condo ___ mobile home 6. What style house appeals to you most? ___ contemporary ___ traditional ___ southwestern ___ colonial ___no preference 7. How much renovation would you be willing to do? ___ A lot ___ A little ___ None! 8. Do you have to be close to public transportation? ___ Yes ___ No 9. Do you have any physical needs that must be met, such as wheelchair access? ___ Yes ___ No 10. Do you have any animals that will require special facilities? ___ Yes ___ No If so, what?______________________________________________ 11. The Lot Must Have Large yard (1 acre or more) ___ Small yard (less than 1 acre) ___ Fenced yard ___ Garage ___ Carport ___ Patio/deck ___ Pool ___ Outdoor spa ___ Extra parking ___ Other buildings (barn, shed, etc.) ___ Special view ___

Would Like to Have ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ Of what? ____________ continued on back >>Page 35

Sunday, May 1, 2011 ■ AT HOME IN HELENA

The Interior

12. How many bedrooms must you have? _____ Would you like to have? _____ 13. How many bathrooms do you want? _____ 14. How big would you like your house to be (square feet)? No less than _____ But no more than _____ 15. What features do you want to have in your house? Must Have Would Like to Have Air conditioning ___ ___ Wall-to-wall carpet ___ ___ Ceramic tile ___ ___ Hardwood floors ___ ___ Eat-in kitchen ___ ___ Separate dining room ___ ___ Formal living room ___ ___ Family room ___ ___ Great room ___ ___ Separate den or library ___ ___ Basement ___ ___ Separate laundry room ___ ___ Fireplace ___ ___ Workshop ___ ___ No interior steps ___ ___ “In-law” apartment ___ ___ Spa in bathroom ___ ___ Lots of windows (light) ___ ___ ____________________ ___ ___ ____________________ ___ ___


16. Do you want to live in an area with a Community Association? ___ Yes ___ No 17. What else do you want in or near your community? Must Have Would Like to Have Golf course ___ ___ Basketball court ___ ___ Tennis courts ___ ___ Park ___ ___ ____________________ ___ ___ 18. Other special features or needs to consider? ______________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________________ Page 36

AT HOME IN HELENA ■ Sunday, May 1, 2011

>> common ques ons con nued I know there are lots of types of mortgages–how do I know which one is best for me?

ANSWER: You’re right, there are many types of mortgages, and the more you know about them before you start, the better. Most people use a fixed-rate mortgage. In a fixed rate mortgage, your interest rate stays the same for the term of the mortgage, which normally is 30 years. The advantage of a fixed-rate mortgage is that you always know exactly how much your mortgage payment will be, and you can plan for it. Another kind of mortgage is an Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM). With this kind of mortgage, your interest rate and monthly payments usually start lower than a fixed rate mortgage. But your rate and payment can change either up or down, as often as once or twice a year. The adjustment is tied to a financial index, such as the U.S. Treasury Securities index. The advantage of an ARM is that you may be able to afford a more expensive home because your initial interest rate will be lower. There are several government mortgage programs,including the Veteran’s Administration’s programs and the Department of Agriculture’s programs. Most people have heard of FHA mortgages. FHA doesn’t actually make loans. Instead, it insures loans so that if buyers default for some reason, the lenders will get their money. This encourages lenders to give mortgages to people who might not otherwise qualify for a loan. Talk to your real estate broker about the various kinds of loans, before you begin shopping for a mortgage.

When I find the home I want, how much should I offer?

ANSWER: Again, your real estate broker can help you here. But there are several things you should consider: 1) is the asking price in line with prices of similar homes in the area? 2) Is the home in good condition or will you have to spend a substantial amount of money making it the way you want it? You probably want to get a professional home inspection before you make your offer. Your real estate broker can help

you arrange one. 3) How long has the home been on the market? If it’s been for sale for awhile, the seller may be more eager to accept a lower offer. 4) How much mortgage will be required? Make sure you really can afford whatever offer you make. 5) How much do you really want the home? The closer you are to the asking price, the more likely your offer will be accepted. In some cases, you may even want to offer more than the asking price, if you know you are competing with others for the house.

What if my offer is rejected?

ANSWER: They often are! But don’t let that stop you. Now you begin negotiating. Your broker will help you. You may have to offer more money, but you may ask the seller to cover some or all of your closing costs or to make repairs that wouldn’t normally be expected. Often, negotiations on a price go back and forth several times before a deal is made. Just remember, don’t get so caught up in negotiations that you lose sight of what you really want and can afford!

So what will happen at closing?

ANSWER: Basically, you’ll sit at a table with your broker, the broker for the seller, probably the seller, and a closing agent. The closing agent will have a stack of papers for you and the seller to sign. While he or she will give you a basic explanation of each paper, you may want to take the time to read each one and/or consult with your agent to make sure you know exactly what you’re signing. After all, this is a large amount of money you’re committing to pay for a lot of years! Before you go to closing, your lender is required to give you a booklet explaining the closing costs, a “good faith estimate” of how much cash you’ll have to supply at closing, and a list of documents you’ll need at closing. If you don’t get those items, be sure to call your lender BEFORE you go to closing. Be sure to read your booklet on settlement costs. It will help you understand your rights in the process. Don’t hesitate to ask questions.

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Sunday, May 1, 2011 ■ AT HOME IN HELENA

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AT HOME IN HELENA ■ Sunday, May 1, 2011

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At Home 2011  

At home 2011