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WE BUILD TRUST Home ownership is a dream come true for all people. Let our professionals at Hamlin Construction & Development Co., Inc. help you realize that dream. Hamlin Construction has variety of floor plans that you may choose from that will meet your needs, or we can work with you to design and build your new dream home. Great floor plans, great people, low great prices and low interest rates combine to make this a GREAT TIME TO BUILD YOUR DREAM HOME. Hamlin Construction has a variety of locations to build your new dream home. These building sites are located both inside and outside of the city limits. Hamlin Construction would also be happy to work with you building on your own property, or help you purchase a property you have located and wish to build on. WHAT EVER YOUR BUILDING NEEDS ARE, WE CAN HELP. CALL TODAY FOR LOT AVAILABILTY & SPECIAL PRICING Let us show you what Hamlin Construction can do for you!

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HOME

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in Helena

CONTENTS 6 8 10 11 13 15 17 19 20

information about buying, selling, and maintaining your Helena home

Tips when creating an outdoor living space Creating a multipurpose threeseason room Shopping for a garden storage shed

22 24 25

Gardening 2012 style

26

Start fresh this spring with renewed home décor

28

Budget-savvy home: Spruce up for spring on a shoe string

30

Living large in smaller spaces

32

Real estate agents can help save buyer and sellers money Should I remodel or build new? Projects that might require a building permit Planning spring home improvements? How to find the right contractor Bathroom remodeling ideas that add style and space Real estate: Tips on buying and financing your first home Common questions from firsttime home buyers

The organized small house: clutter control

35

Wish list inventory

Celebrity designer celebrates the sights and scents of spring

37

Advertiser index At HOME in Helena

is published by the Independent Record 317 Cruse Avenue | Helena, MT 59601 (406) 447-4003 ©2012 Capital City Publishing Group.

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at home in helena ■ Sunday, April 29, 2012

where your dreams both inside & out meet. COME SEE US FOR... · Stoves, fireplaces, inserts available in wood, pellet, and gas · Large selection of veneer materials like brick, natural stone and cultured stone · Retaining walls, pavers, step stones

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Sunday, April 29, 2012 ■ at home in helena

Tips when creating an outdoor living space

Outdoor living spaces have become increasingly popular over the last several years. The home improvement boom has shown many homeowners just how easy it can be to transform a home into a private sanctuary that caters to the personalities of the homes residents.

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utdoor living areas have become an extension of the home's interior, with many homeowners creating outdoor living rooms and dining areas so they can relax and eat meals outside just as they do indoors. But homeowners thinking of creating outdoor living spaces should consider a few tricks of the trade before beginning their projects. Strategically place the space. Property often dictates where the outdoor living space will go, but it helps to keep in mind that the outdoor space is more likely to be used if it’s easily accessible from the inside of the home. For instance, if residents need to walk out the front door to access an outdoor living space in the backyard, then residents might find the area is too inconveniently located and they won’t make the most of the space. Whenever possible, plan the outdoor living space so it’s easily accessible from the home’s interior, preferably from the kitchen so it will be easier to carry meals outdoors when dining outside. Emphasize comfort. Many homeowners look at their outdoor living areas as places to kick their feet up and relax, so comfort should take precedence when planning the space. Forgo the plastic patio chairs of yesteryear for furniture that’s more sturdy and roomy so you won’t feel cramped or sweaty on warm summer evenings and afternoons. In addition, don’t forget to shade the area. Page 6

Some homeowners choose to build pergolas, but oftentimes an umbrella or two can do the trick at a fraction of the cost. If the outdoor living area is near trees, they might provide sufficient shade from the often blistering summer sun. But keep a few umbrellas in the garage just in case. Illuminate the area. Summer nights spent relaxing in the outdoor living area make for great memories. But such nights are nearly impossible if the area doesn’t have some lighting. Tiki torches might do the trick for some, while others who want to avoid giving their outdoor area a luau feel might prefer solar-powered accent lights, which won’t require any wiring. If your backyard attracts its fair share of insects, look for insect-repelling lights or lamps. Whatever your preference, don’t forget to have some lighting so those summer evenings spent under the sky don’t have to end when the sun goes down. Keep the design consistent with your home. In addition to providing an outdoor respite from the daily grind, an outdoor living space can also increase a home’s resale value. However, homeowners who have one eye on R&R and the other on resale value should keep the design of their outdoor living space consistent with their home. One of the goals when designing an outdoor living space should be to create a seamless transition from the home’s interior to its exterior. The best way to do that is to keep the designs of both living spaces consistent.


at home in helena ■ Sunday, April 29, 2012

Don't forget the fire pit. A fire pit provides a great focal point for an outdoor living area. Instead of sitting at the dinner table, families and friends can gather around the fire pit and relax with some s’mores and share stories. But even when guests aren’t coming over, a fire pit makes for a great place to relax and let the time go by. With more and more homeowners transforming their homes into their own private sanctuaries, outdoor living spaces continue to grow in popularity. By employing a few simple tricks of the trade, homeowners can create the outdoor areas of their dreams. By MetroCreative Connection

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Creating a multipurpose three-season room

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By MetroCreative Connection

space that serves as an indoor-outdoor transitional area in a home can be a valuable living space. Screened-in porches are often attractive to buyers, but are typically not as popular as a room that can be used once the warm weather has passed. Certain features of a home can increase a home’s resale value. According to BankRate.com, a light, airy and spacious feel is one characteristic that prospective buyers find very attractive. Richard Gaylord, a member of the executive committee for the National Association of Realtors, says, “I haven’t sold many homes that aren’t bright and airy.” Even the popular home improvement television network HGTV touts brightening up a home as a way to increase its value. A bright, well-lit room helps people feel more cheerful and relaxed. To easily achieve more light and space, consider the addition of a three-season-room. When paired with energyefficient new windows, this space can make a welcome addition to just about any home.

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at home in helena ■ Sunday, April 29, 2012

A three-season room is often called a sunroom or extended season room. It is not to be mistaken for a fourseason-room, which is fully insulated and generally has heating and air conditioning just like the rest of the house. A three-season room does not have these amenities, but it may be used year-round with the help of a portable heater. There are many advantages to three-season rooms. • A room with regular windows can make the space more comfortable. This allows for the use of screens in warmer months – letting in air and sounds of nature. When the temperature drops, the windows can be closed to help insulate against the cold. • Three-season rooms can add much-needed extra floor space to the home. • These rooms can also serve as a transition between the house and the yard, which is a good way to reduce tracking dirt and debris. • They reduce the discomfort of sitting outdoors among pesky insects. • A three-season room lets in more sunlight through windows or skylights, possibly reducing home energy costs as a result. • The three-season room enables those suffering from seasonal mood disorders to extend their time spent in the sun. • A three-season rooms is often the ideal place to entertain company because it tends to be bright and cheerful. Handy homeowners may be able to convert an existing

porch into a three-season room or build one from scratch or assemble the room from a pre-made kit. However, those homeowners who prefer to leave the work to someone more experienced can hire a contractor. Before getting started, it is best to contact the local building and permits office to determine which building codes for the new room must be met. While screened-in porches may be adequate with a certain level of foundation and structure, rooms that will be using glass panels or standard windows may need some modifications to make them safe. Apply for the necessary permits and have the work inspected to be sure it is legal. Where you locate your sunroom may depend on the direction of the sun or the space you have on the property. Consider your landscape and property lines before doing any building. You may have to reframe certain parts of the room if you are converting a porch to a sunroom. Be sure to use materials that will accommodate the addition of heavier, thicker glass or windows. Many homeowners find weatherproofing the room is a good idea. Use construction-grade materials you can commonly find at home improvement centers. Wrapping the room in a material that guards against heat, humidity and moisture will ensure a more comfortable environment once construction is complete. Building a three-season room can add substantial value to your home and create another family-friendly space.

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Shopping for a garden storage shed

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torage space is often a coveted commodity. Apartment dwellers seek out more closet space, homeowners may desire more acreage, and even children may want more space for their toys and belongings. The purchase of a storage shed could alleviate some clutter issues and move items outdoors – creating more space. Household garages are no longer as popular for storing vehicles. Instead, garages are used to store the extra items that do not fit inside the home. Many people even turn to self-storage units for extra storage space. According to the Self Storage Association, the storage industry earned roughly $20 billion in revenues across North America in 2010. It has also been the fastest-growing segment of the commercial real estate industry for the last 30 years and is considered to be recession-proof. Garden storage sheds present another place where individuals can keep items out of sight but easily accessible. As garages fill up with belongings quite quickly, many homeowners think about a shed purchase to at least keep outdoor lawn and garden essentials in their own place. The process of purchasing a shed is not as simple as finding the least or most expensive type on the market. There are other factors that come into play when selecting a shed. Appearance and design: Although the function of a shed is to store items out of sight, the shed itself will be in full view in a yard. Therefore, plenty of homeowners prefer something that has just as much aesthetic appeal as it does storage capacity. An unsightly shed can affect the overall appearance of a property, or even hurt the sale price for

Storage sheds can provide muchneeded space for homeowners. Certain features as well as cost need to be factored into the decision before purchase. Homeowners should compare chain home improvement stores as well as private retailers to find a shed that is the best fit.

homeowners thinking about putting the home on the market. It's important to select a shed in a price range that also complements the style of he home so it coordinates with other features. Some people choose to have a custom-built shed that can replicate the architectural style of the home and even features the same siding and finishing materials. Size: Sheds come in a variety of sizes, from compact locker-sized sheds to large buildings that may even double as a garden room, pool room or kids’ playhouse. Homeowners should keep in mind that the size of the shed may have to meet local municipality rules for additions or structural changes to a property. A larger shed may require a permanent flooring material, such as concrete, and may be subject to permit applications and inspections, whereas a smaller shed may not have such stringent requirements. Furthermore, certain towns actually may restrict the size and placement of a shed if it interferes with traffic visibility or impacts a neighbor in a negative way. Siding materials: Sheds are constructed of various exterior materials. Some of the more affordable options are metal or plywood and particle board. However, these materials can be easily compromised by rain and snow. The most maintenance-free materials are vinyl or molded PVC-type plastics. However, these may look like cookiecutout units and may not have as much visual appeal. Cedar and wood are popular siding choices but won't be maintenance-free. They need upkeep and also tend to be more expensive. But the cost may pay for itself in durability as well as an attractive appearance. Minor enhancements: Touches like decorative architectural features, window boxes, shutters, or even simply planting shrubs and annuals around the shed can make it an integral part of the landscape instead of simply an eyesore. Double doors will ensure large pieces of equipment can fit inside the shed. The addition of a pressure-treated ramp at the entryway provides easy access to the shed as well.

Sheds can offer much-needed storage space in a home's backyard. Page 10

By MetroCreative Connection


at home in helena ■ Sunday, April 29, 2012

Gardening 2012 Style

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as Helena finally seen its last snow for the season? Serious gardeners have been dreaming and scheming for months about what they plan to plant this year. For the rest of us, there are several national trends that will be big in Helena for 2012. Be Water-Wise In an arid climate like Montana’s, plants that are sustainable with minimal water top the list and have for awhile, according to Richard Krott of Tizer Botanic Garden and Aboretum in Jefferson City. Tizer is Montana’s only demonstration garden for the Denver Botanic Garden and Colorado State University’s “Plant Select®” Program, which seeks out, identifies and distributes the best plants for landscapes and gardens from the intermountain region to the high plains. The program collects plants from remote areas all over the world. Areas like Denver often have water restrictions, and sometimes Helena does as well, Krott said. So local gardeners are making sure they’re using water wisely and choosing plants that can survive in arid conditions. It’s also important to put the right plant in the right spot within your garden. Match the plant you’re considering with the soil, water and light conditions it needs. Helena’s local plant nursery’s can help you select plants that will do well in our area. Learn about the shade or sun exposure and soil type of your various garden beds so you’ll know the plants you buy are going to do well in your garden.

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Native Plants Gardening with plants that are native to Helena continues to grow in popularity. “It’s not a coincidence that many of these plants are also drought-tolerant,” Krott said. “They grow well without needing as much water and maintenance,” making them environmentally friendly. Krott did say that native plants often cost more and can be more difficult to grow. He also said it’s important when shopping for native plants to know the difference between true native plants and cultivars, which he described as plants in which a horticulturist has “juggled its genes.” Tizer is currently working with high schools in Boulder, continued on page 12 >> Page 11


Sunday, April 29, 2012 ■ at home in helena

Easy to find, easy to grow, recommended native plants Courtsey of montanawildlifegardener.blogspot.com/ •Forbs –White yarrow (Achillea millefolium) –Horse mint (Monarda fistulosa) –Hairy golden aster (Heterotheca villosa) –Blanket flower (Gaillardia aristata) –Blue flax (Linum lewisii) –Wilcox’s penstemon (Penstemon wilcoxii) –Showy fleabane (Erigeron speciosus) •Grasses –Bluebunch wheatgrass (Agropyron spicatum) –Prairie June grass (Koelaria cristata) –Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis) –Rough fescue (Festuca scabrella) •Shrubby Shrubs –Rubber rabbit brush (Crysothamnus nauseosa) –Big basin sage (Artemesia tridentata) –Woods rose (Rosa woodsii) –Golden current (Ribes aureum) –Mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii)

Gardening

>> continued from page 9 Troy, and Cascade County as well as Kessler Elementary school on growing native plant gardens. Edible Landscapes The local food movement isn’t new, and you can’t get more local than your own backyard. Growing your own food at home continues to be very popular. “It’s been very big for the last two years,” Krott said; adding that the idea is similar to Victory Gardens during World Wars I and II. Also known as “kitchen gardening,” growing vegetables, herbs and fruits to cook with saves money and just plain tastes better. Many gardeners plant fast-growing salad vegetables like lettuce and radishes, but things like potatoes, corn, beans and squash are easy to grow and store. Grandma’s Heirlooms Heirloom plants and vegetables are plants that were historically popular and haven’t been crossbred or altered in any way. Krott said that heirloom plants are popular in some gardening circles, especially roses in the Helena area. By Kelli Butenko Page 12

•Shrubby Trees –Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) –Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia) –Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) –Mountain Ash (Sorbus scopulina) –Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides) –Elderberry (Sambucus cerulea) –Black Hawthorn (Creataegus douglasii) Deer Resistant Plants •Bluebunch wheatgrass •White yarrow •Blanket flower •Hairy golden aster •Monarda (bee balm) •Penstemons •Fleabanes •Asters •Goldenrod (Solidago spp) •Showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) Instant Prairie •Bluebunch wheatgrass •Idaho fescue •Prairie June grass •White yarrow •Blanket flower •Hairy golden aster •Monarda (bee balm) •Sage/rabbit brush •Wilcox’s penstemon •Showy fleabane


at home in helena ■ Sunday, April 29, 2012

Christian

Gifts & Home Décor

Start fresh this spring with renewed home décor

A

s the seasons change, many people commit to starting fresh or making positive changes. As you consider what you will change in your life, think about where you spend the majority of your time. Your surroundings can greatly influence your mood and actions, and a refreshed interior can help you step forward into a new and improved lifestyle. Enjoying life more could start with just a few simple updates to your home. Color Home décor trends are constantly evolving, and one of the most obvious aspects of changing style is color. An easy, cost-effective way to instantly modernize your home is to update your walls to a posh hue. Try a shade from Pratt & Lambert’s 2012 Color Trends palette, which features a broad range of colors to fit any style. After tracing the development of today’s styles back to their origins, the brand’s Color + Design team released the 2012 trends forecast. Titled “Trace,” this forecast features five palettes: Essence, Instinctive, Enough, Echo and Expressive. From shimmering ethereal shades, to rich earth tones, to bright vibrant hues, Pratt & Lambert’s 2012 Trends provide the hottest color options to update every room in the home. Use these colors as inspiration for other decorating elements as well to create a cohesive, modern atmosphere. Accents Whether your taste is classic and elegant, natural and rustic, or clean and modern, accessories have a huge impact on the feel of any room. Mirrors, wall hangings, table art, continued on page 14 >>

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Renewed home décor continued from page 11

>>

pillows and floral arrangements are just some examples of accents that can completely change the look and feel of a space. Don’t be afraid to combine materials and styles, either. An ornate brass mirror can work well to complement the clean lines of a modern end table or the intricate fabric of an antique footstool. Avoid clutter as you add visual accessories by using baskets, chests and other storage pieces to conceal magazines, books and other common items.

Rearrange Replacing your current furniture may not be in your budget, but don’t underestimate the effect rearranging your current pieces can have on your space. Simply changing the layout of a room costs nothing and can have a dramatic impact on the functionality and atmosphere of your home. Place larger furniture pieces against the wall to open up floor space and avoid blocking walking paths. Or, you might arrange your sofa or elongated pieces of furniture at an angle in the corner of the room to give the illusion of a longer wall and also instantly create hidden storage opportunities. This update is as temporary as you want it to be, so don’t be afraid to try something new. You might even rearrange every few months to keep things fresh throughout the year. Lighting To instantly give your space a new look, consider changing the lighting. Whether it’s a large hanging fixture, wall sconces, standing lamps or recessed can lights, adjusting your current lighting will have a significant effect on the ambience of any room. A mixture of light sources works best for most spaces, and a visit to a local lighting store will confirm the options are endless. While many lights will serve functional purposes, others may serve as pure decoration to highlight an aspect of the room, such as a piece of artwork. And, like furniture, remember that simply adjusting the locations of table and floor lamps can have a dramatic impact your room’s feel. Bring your home into spring in style and update your color, accents, layout and lighting to start fresh. By focusing on a few key areas, you can enjoy an improved living space easily and affordably. By ARAContent

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at home in helena ■ Sunday, April 29, 2012

Budget-savvy home: Spruce up for spring on a shoe string Even with a bare-bones decorating budget, you can still give your home a fresh look for spring.

I

t just takes a bit of creativity and an open mind, according to Ginny Bean, publisher and founder of Ginny’s catalog and Ginnys.com. “One of the easiest and least expensive ways to spruce up your home is to subtract from what’s in it,” says Bean. Removing clutter is just one of Bean’s low-cost, high-impact tips for giving your home a seasonal lift. Clear the clutter. In the winter, it’s comforting to have stacks of books and magazines on coffee tables, and throws on couches. In the spring, you want open and airy. Put books on shelves, and magazines in a rack or basket. Tuck the throws in the linen closet, and pack away knick-knacks for a few months. Rearrange the furniture. Try floating furniture in the room rather than hugging the walls. It’s a great trick for making the space feel different and less structured. Swap out an item in your living room for one in your bedroom, or slide something from the kitchen into the dining room. Spring for some color. A few touches of bright, saturated color can refresh any decor, and distract the eye from items that might be a bit dated. No one will notice a worn coffee table if it has a bold, oversized vase sitting on it. There’s no need to break the bank. Think about pillows or placemats to incorporate the colors you want.

By ARAContent

Accessorize. You can change your towels, shower curtain and bath accessories for less than $100. Jar candles are another inexpensive way to create an inviting room environment. Seasonal scents like honeysuckle, freesia and spring tulip add color, freshness and intoxicating fragrance. Go sheer. Replace heavy draperies with bright, lightweight curtains or sheers. You won’t believe the difference it can make. Just let them hang and blow in the breeze. Remake your bed. Put away that heavy comforter or quilt in favor of a lighter bedspread. Mix and match solidcolored fitted and top sheets with pillowcases in various patterns. Tuck the top sheet tightly all around and fold the edge at the head of the bed over your coverlet or blanket. Fold your bedspread down to rest across the foot of the bed. Add accent pillows to create an inviting, luxurious-looking bed. Assess your art work. Is your wall decor warm and cozy? Switch out a few pieces for something lighter and brighter. Plant an idea. Put at least one house plant in every room. Fill a low planter or kitchen serving dish with potting soil and some grass seed. When the grass is a few inches high, add found items or seashells for a conversation-starting centerpiece. For more seasonal decorating ideas and products, visit Ginnys.com. Page 15


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at home in helena ■ Sunday, April 29, 2012

Living large in smaller spaces: The shrinking, changing American home The American home may be shrinking, but not the Great American Dream. Americans are still living large, just doing so in smaller spaces.

By ARAContent

T

o some trend-watchers, the downscaling of the American home comes as good news. Architects, designers and social observers say our willingness to resize our floor space means Americans are rethinking the way we really live and how we use whatever space we do have. Home, they say, has become less about impressing others and more about making ourselves happy. And since we are mostly baby boomers – that tidal wave of Americans born between 1946 and 1964 – who have long been accustomed to getting what we want, happiness is often defined in terms of luxuries and personal amenities. “Natural materials like American Hardwoods are redefining the word ‘luxury,’” says Linda Jovanovich of the American Hardwood Information Center. “Hardwoods bring richness and warmth to even small rooms, whether it’s used on the floors and walls, or crafted into built-ins. Custom hardwood furnishings like bookcases and cabinets make a home personal, yours alone, and isn’t that the ultimate luxury?” This new definition of luxury – top-quality, mostly natural materials, careful attention to architectural details like natural wood window frames and mouldings – is one that architect and author Sarah Susanka agrees with. And what Susanka thinks matters. In 1998, her professional hunch launched what has become the “build-better-not-bigger” movement, when she published the first in her best-selling series of “The Not So Big House” books. Her mantra is indeed, think smaller, and she also believes that “luxury comes from the materials we surround ourselves with. Beauty comes from natural materials. You can see where they come from – in the grain, the veining. The more natural the materials, like real hardwoods and granite, the more content you are. There’s a quality you can’t name, but you can feel it.” Gale Steves, author, editor and design industry consultant sums up a similar concept in her book about “Right-Sizing Your Home.” According to Steves, “Right-sizing is about making the best use of the spaces you have for the way you live.” She suggests these ways to best enjoy the shrinking and changing American home. “Create a room within a room,” Steves advises. Her ideas begin at floor-level. Install hardwood flooring throughout to

Featured in The Decorative Carpet by Alix G. Perrachon (The Monacelli Press), a small contemporary living room by designer Jiun Ho is warmed by its mellow hardwood floors and cooled by steel-gray on the walls and a Tibetan area rug.

unify the spaces and make them look larger, then use area rugs to define separate areas. Lay hardwood on the diagonal to set off special architectural features. Create a “rug” under a dining table with an inset frame of contrasting hardwood. Or outline an entire room with two courses of contrasting hardwood. More ideas: Use a sectional sofa to delineate an intimate seating area within an open floor plan. And - of special interest to the many boomers who are eschewing retirement – find a standing wood-panel screen to create privacy or isolate a work space, say, in a bedroom office area. And don’t forget to make it sustainable. Living green is a high priority for the anti-McMansion generation. As Susanka sees it, we should think of the 21st-century house as “a well-tailored suit: you use less material, but it fits you perfectly.” So while the size of the “average” U.S. home may be shrinking, remember that it’s more about space that works and that satisfies the psyche in the process that defines the ultimate in luxury. Think custom kitchens with pro-quality appliances, posh home-spa baths, stone countertops and the beauty and warmth that only come with hardwood flooring, cabinetry and millwork. Page 17


Sunday, April 29, 2012 ■ at home in helena

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at home in helena ■ Sunday, April 29, 2012

The organized small house: clutter control By Kelli Butenko

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small there’s not room for a dresser, we can add drawers re you a few old newspapers away from starring in the closet. We fit the needs of whatever the person in your own episode of “Hoarders?” A place for wants, whether it’s a place for shoes, shelves, drawers, or everything and everything in its place can be a hampers.” Enyeart has installed custom closets in not just problem in today’s smaller homes, which can seem like bedrooms, but family rooms, garages, they’re bursting at the seams with home offices, and laundry rooms. “stuff.” According to Jim Enyeart, owner Clearing Clutter. Once you’ve of Home Beautifiers with his wife, decided on storage, it’s time to only put Shelle, “It’s necessary to maximize Isabella Mary Beeton, The Book of Household into it only the things you love and use. the living space in a small home, and Management, 1861 The first step in de-cluttering is to edit that often means a lack of closets.” your possessions. Start by emptying the room and then put So what can you do get and stay organized when your back only what you want or need to keep. Take inventory of floor plan and closets are smaller than the quantity of your what you have and give away or sell whatever you can live belongings? without, especially items you have multiples of. Remember the “A place for everything and everything in its place” rule. Storage Solutions. A good first step is to figure out Once surfaces like tables and counter tops are cleared off, what type of storage you need and where you can place it to make your small home seem more spacious. In the living your space will feel more open. Move things you don’t use regularly, like kitchen appliances, off the counter to free up room, hidden storage such as in an ottoman works well for space. The same goes for any paperwork you have on your items like kids’ toys or extra blankets. If desk that you don’t refer to regularly. And every time you you have a big blank wall, consider use something, put it away immediately after you’re done. a floor-to-ceiling storage unit or hanging shelves. Open-ended hanging shelves can feel airier than a bookcase that sits on the floor. If • The less you own, the less you have to you have a flat-screen TV, hang it on clean. This applies to quantity of objects as the wall instead of sitting it on a table or media well as square footage in your home. center to free up more living space. In the kitchen, • One in, one out. If you buy something new, trying hanging pans and utensils from a pot rack to free you need to get rid of whatever it’s replacing. up cabinet, drawer, and valuable counter top space. In the • If you get it out, put it back. An bedroom, use under-the-bed boxes for storage of seasonal clothes and things you don’t use often. A Murphy bed in a especially great rule to implement to keep guest room stays out of the way until you need it. your home and office orderly. One way to improve your home’s storage is with a • Guilt is not a reason to keep custom closet. “We can maximize the amount of space something. This one is self explanatory. the home already has,” Enyeart said. “If the room is so

“A place for everything and everything in its place.”

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Celebrity designer celebrates the sights and scents of spring Kelli Ellis is an interior designer for all seasons. But when spring rolls around each year, she is truly in her element.

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n award-winning celebrity interior designer, textile designer and design psychology expert, Ellis’s work is everywhere, from television (as a featured designer on TLC’s “Clean Sweep,” HGTV’s “Takeover My Makeover,” and Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Orange County” as well as guest spots on NBC, CBS and ABC) and the Web (as eHow.com’s interior design expert) to print media (as the monthly design advice columnist for the Orange County Gazette). Known for her love of flowers and floral design, Ellis also serves as a spokesperson for the Society of American Florists. For Ellis, spring offers endless opportunities to update and refresh interior spaces with touches of color. While she always recommends starting with a neutral foundation that includes walls and major pieces of furniture in shades of white, beige or brown, Ellis loves to add seasonal flourishes by changing up accents and accessories. “With a neutral foundation,” explains Ellis, “you don’t have to invest a lot of time or money to refresh. Once you have the basics – those pieces of furniture that you absolutely love and will stand the test of time – the sky’s the limit in terms of changing accents such as valances, pillows, rugs, candle holders – even the matting on a picture. A neutral foundation opens the door to a new look with minimal changes.” According to Ellis, one of the best – and easiest – ways to add seasonal color and refresh a living space is with fresh

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flowers displayed in a variety of containers. Fresh flowers not only enliven a room and bring in the sights and scents of the outdoors, they are perfect for playing up color and color combinations. “A lot of people are afraid of color in their decor, so a less scary way of introducing color is with flowers and vases,” Ellis notes. “Fresh flowers can go with any type of decor and generally last as long as your mood, so there are endless opportunities to experiment without making a long-term commitment.” Decorating with flowers begins with choosing a container that is in sync with the season and the style of your home, counsels Ellis. “There are so many container options for every type of decor,” Ellis says. “If your home leans toward country, think about using old decanters, tins or even wooden boxes. For contemporary homes, glass vases with clean lines work best. And for traditional homes, go with urns or ornate vases.” The same principal applies to the flowers themselves. Mixed flowers tend to be more traditional; bunches of local flowers lend a homey, just-picked quality to a casual or country home; and monochromatic arrangements ooze modern. The key, notes Ellis, is to pair flowers with both their containers and the indoor environment in which they will be seen. Next comes color. While Ellis leans toward monochromatic arrangements of white flowers – stargazers,


at home in helena ■ Sunday, April 29, 2012

A neutral foundation opens the door to a new look with minimal changes.

lilies, roses and orchids are among her personal favorites – she nevertheless appreciates the “pop” of color that can be achieved with bolder blossoms. When choosing flowers for a particular spot or room, Ellis advises looking at complementary colors – those that are on the opposite side of the color wheel. For example, if the walls are a warm shade of yellow or gold, a container filled with blue flowers, such as hydrangeas, delphiniums or sapphire orchids, makes a bold statement. And in the green room? Try flowers in shades of purple and violet.

“I think the greatest thing in the world is to bring your own vase or container to the florist and ask for something special that works with it,” she reveals. “Not every florist has a vase that suits your taste or will work in a particular spot, so I take in my containers and say, ‘I want something blue.’ Then I’m both surprised with the result and certain that it will work with the decor.” To learn more about Ellis and her latest projects, visit her online at kelliellis.com. By MetroCreative Connection

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Real estate agents can help save buyers and sellers money

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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.

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Buying a Home

1. Schedule a consultation to discuss what features and amenities buyer is looking for in a home. 2. The agent may suggest buyers speak with a mortgage consultant to figure out their buying power and obtain a mortgage pre-approval letter. 3. The agent will then look up home listings in a particular price range and help the buyers to view the homes. 4. 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. 5. The agent will help the buyer negotiate on the final price with the seller. 6. 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. 7. The agent may be present during a home inspection, which is recommended. 8. The agent will then schedule the home appraisal. 9. 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.


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Sunday, April 29, 2012 ■ at home in helena

Should I remodel or build new?

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our growing family needs another bedroom. You’ve never liked your tiny kitchen. You want a more open floor plan. There are any number of reasons why a person might want to build a new home or remodel their existing one. How do you make the decision on which route is right for you and your family? According to Susan Bjerke, owner of Bjerke Architects in Helena, homeowners thinking of remodeling should ask themselves if there are just a few problem areas and the rest of the home is functioning well for them. “We don’t want to turn the whole house inside out,” she said. “We often work on additions or remodels, but seldom do homeowners change the entire floor plan and move rooms around. They should ask themselves if they have enough square footage and just need help making the spaces work better.” You should also consider where you live. Do you love your current neighborhood? Are your children in good schools? Then you might want to stay where you are and remodel. On the other hand, if you live somewhere with high property taxes and your neighborhood isn’t your biggest concern, building in a different area might pay off in

the long run if the property taxes are substantially lower. Bjerke said homeowners should also consider any regulations on lots within the city limits. There is a limit on the amount of your lot you can cover with buildings, so that’s a consideration if you want to expand your home’s footprint. You also need to consider the topography of your lot and whether an addition could be built there. Permitting is another factor to consider. According to Bjerke, it can be a convoluted process. In an older neighborhood containing small houses on small lots, the

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at home in helena ■ Sunday, April 29, 2012

homeowner may need to spend time and money getting a zoning variance for an addition. This can be the case even if you’re not expanding the home’s footprint. It’s something you should research fairly early on, she suggests. One advantage of remodeling is that the permit covers only the new work, not the existing structure. “If we’re putting in a new kitchen, often inspectors won’t look beyond that. With a new structure, permitting is more inclusive and looks at the whole picture, from the foundation up,” she said. Also, permit cost is based on a percentage of the total project, so a new home permit may cost substantially more than one for a remodel or addition. Another element that plays into the decision of remodeling versus building new is the age of your home. Bjerke says that homeowners need to take into account whether or not their home structurally sound. For example, the homeowner may want to add a second story to a home that’s not able to support it. If you’re looking to save on energy costs, replacing old appliances with new energy-efficient versions during a remodel can help you do that while increasing your home’s value. When building a new home, you can take energy-efficiency one step further with high-efficiency insulation and windows, water-saving fixtures and more to further reduce utility cost and add value. By Kelli Butenko

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Projects that might require a building permit

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ll too many homeowners have experienced the joy of completing a home improvement project only to learn upon completion that the project is not in adherence with local laws. That realization, while heartbreaking, is often the result of a homeowner’s failure to secure a building permit prior to starting the project. Homeowners who secure a permit before the onset of a project will know what they can and can’t do and can rest easy knowing that an approved plan complies with engineering principles and local laws. Another disadvantage to forgoing the permit process is the potential perils such a decision cause when homeowners want to sell their homes. Projects completed without a permit might hurt a home’s resale value, and such projects are not often covered by homeowner's insurance policies, meaning damage to areas of the home where an illegal project was conducted won't be covered. While homeowners should always check with their local municipality before starting a project, it might help to know the following are a few of the many home improvement projects that typically require a permit before they can go forward. • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Above-ground pool Attached storage shed Awnings Carports Deck installation Demolition project, interior or exterior Fireplace addition Garage conversion Handicap ramp Handicap restroom In-ground pool Patio enclosure Patio installation Partition wall installation Porch Retaining walls Roof change (i.e., flat roof to sloped roof) Roof replacement Room addition Room remodel Siding Sliding glass door (if area is increased) Skylight Spa or hot tub installation Windows, new or replacement (if area is increased)

By MetroCreative Connection Page 25


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Planning spring home improvements? How to find the right contractor

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ou’ve got a list of spring home improvements to do, a vision for getting them done, and you even have a budget. Now all you need is someone to do the work; it’s time to hire a contractor. Yet even the bestlaid home improvement plans can go awry if you hire the wrong person or company to do the job. Even if this is your first home improvement project, and your first time hiring a contractor, you’ve probably heard some horror stories: contractors who overcharge, underestimate the actual cost of a job, drag a project out weeks longer than it should take, or simply leave a job unfinished. While the majority of contractors are honest, you still need to check a contractor’s business license, and the business’s financial stability, before you hire anyone for your spring home improvement project. Fortunately, with a few simple steps, you can help ensure you choose the right contractor for your job: Find out about contractor’s finances Credit issues are common during difficult financial times. While the presence of issues concerning a contracting company’s financial background doesn’t necessarily mean the owner is a bad person, credit problems could directly affect his ability to do a job. Contractors with limited access to credit may be unable to buy the materials they need or hire the help required to complete your project. Online resources like ContractorCheck.com, by Experian, can help you check a contractor’s credentials. Experian maintains a database of more than 5 million Page 26

contractors and their businesses’ information, and ContractorCheck.com allows you to view this data, which includes critical information such as: • Company name, address and phone number • Multiple operating addresses • How long the company has been in business • License, bonding and insurance information • Contractor specialties • A credit review that will reveal any past collection or derogatory credit events • An easy-to-understand contractor rating Additionally, ContractorCheck.com reports include public record information such as liens or judgments against the business – important information considering that according to a recent review of Experian’s database, 8.4 percent of contractors had a lien on file and 6.2 percent had a judgment filed against them. Stay alert for signs of trouble Most contractors operate within the law, but it pays to know the warning signs of one who is not honorable and honest. Consider these tips from the Federal Trade Commission: Contractors who solicit door-to-door, only accept cash or who don’t have a phone number associated with a valid business address should ring your warning bell. Beware of offers to discount a job by a contractor who says he will use materials left over from a previous project. Steer clear of contractors who expect you to obtain


at home in helena ■ Sunday, April 29, 2012

necessary permits for your project, or who want you to find them new customers in exchange for discounts. It’s his responsibility to obtain permits and new customers. If a contractor’s offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Watch for warning signs like an extremely long guarantee period or an offer to discount your job as a “demonstration.” Shut down contractors who engage in high-pressure pitches. If a contractor tells you he needs an immediate answer from you, tell him your answer is “no.” Or, if he or she wants you to fund your project through a preferred lender, consider taking your business to a more flexible contractor. Finally, find out what others are saying about the contractor you’re thinking of hiring. Word-of-mouth is one of the most reliable reporting methods when it comes to evaluating how well someone might do your job. Ask the contractor for the names and numbers of past clients he’s worked with. But keep in mind, even a reputable contractor is only going to give you contact information for customers he knows were happy with his work, so use these references as one more piece of information, but don’t base your decision on them.

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Bathroom remodeling ideas that add style and space

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ow, more than ever, homeowners are adding to the value and comfort of their homes by renovating bathrooms into private retreats with luxurious touches that rival those of an upscale spa or resort. Ron and Susan Bishop of Adams Township, Pa., recently completed an extensive remodel of the master bathroom in their 20-year-old home. The remake covered nearly every square inch of the space, including the installation of new cabinets, tile, floor coverings and lighting. The couple says one of the biggest highlights is the custom shower enclosure, made from Clarvista glass by PPG, which uses a fused-on coating to keep its showroom appearance over time. “Few things detract from the appearance of a luxurious bathroom more than a shower door covered with water deposits and soap scum,” Ron Bishop says. “Susan and I made it a point to find a product that would keep its good looks and be easy to maintain. We completed the renovation on our master bath more than a year ago, and the glass on our shower enclosure still looks brand new.” When considering an update for your bathroom, whether you choose to do an extensive remodel or a smaller project, most kitchen and bath designers agree on these tips: Consider the size of the bathroom. If you have a small room, look for ways to make it feel more expansive. A sleek, stylish glass shower enclosure helps your bathroom appear more spacious, and in most instances, a frameless shower enclosure will provide Page 28

the cleanest, most open look. If you decide to go with a framed shower enclosure, you’ll have two choices: frameless sliding doors or framed doors. For framed doors, be sure the finish of the metal framing and handles matches your bathroom fixtures. Think outside the box. Taking a creative approach to bathroom necessities can help you make the most of your space. For instance, the majority of shower enclosures are square or rectangular, but today’s designers encourage you to think about other shapes. Don’t be afraid to consider a circular or ovalshaped enclosure, a triangle or even a standard shape with an artfully bowed glass door, which can redefine the space and make your bathroom more versatile. Don’t skimp on the glass. All glass used for shower enclosures is safety glass, which means it is tempered to make it stronger and more


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shatterproof. That doesn’t mean all shower glass is alike, though. Most shower doors and enclosures are fabricated from conventional clear glass - which typically has a light, almost imperceptible green cast - or some variation of frosted glass. If you want a look that’s chic and ultraclear, ask your bath designer or showroom retailer about Clarvista on Starphire glass. Brighten things up. Repainting your bathroom with light colors can make it feel more spacious. If your bathroom has windows or skylights, use window treatments and accents that maximize the amount of light that comes through to give the room a more airy feel. Find the best use for your space. Move bathroom cleaning items to a hall closet if you are stretched for storage space in your bathroom, especially if you have freestanding storage units that are taking up valuable floor space. If you need more storage space, consider adding built-in compartments if possible between your wall studs to maximize usuable space.

It’s been shown time and time again that remodeling a bathroom can add to a home’s value. Whether you want to sell or just enjoy your home more, it’s one of the most practical and dramatic ways to make your home more appealing.

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Real estate: Tips on buying and financing your first home By ARAContent

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nly five years ago, it was relatively easy to finance a home, but the Great Recession and the mortgage market’s meltdown have made it difficult for many people to qualify for home loans. The shifting state of home values and prices has complicated matters. In some markets, values have plunged by more than 40 percent. While that has created once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for younger people to enter the real estate market, others have taken a more cautious approach, waiting to see if prices will continue to fall. Whether you’re ready now or will be down the road, buying your first home takes preparation. Here are some tips from FindLaw.com, the nation’s leading website for free legal information, on how to get started. Save aggressively for your down payment. Many first-time homebuyers seek a mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Association, which insures loans made by lenders for qualifying homebuyers. The program allows buyers to put down as little as 3.5 percent of a home’s cost. However, if the home you want to buy doesn’t qualify for the

program, you’ll need to obtain a conventional loan, which will require you to put down anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of the purchase price as a down payment to qualify for a mortgage.

For many younger Americans, the dream of owning their first home is alive and well. But for others, it’s still an elusive dream.

Get your finances in order. Lenders are now taking a closer look at debt-to-income ratio (percentage of monthly income that goes toward debt payments) and housing-to-income ratio (percentage of monthly income that goes toward housing payments). In general, responsible lenders follow the 28/36 percent rule – no more than 28 percent of your monthly income should go to housing costs, and no more than 36 percent of your monthly income should go to debt (including auto loans, credit cards and other loans). Clean up your credit report. Your credit score is critical to a mortgage application. The higher your score, the more likely you can qualify for a mortgage and obtain favorable terms (a lower down payment and lower monthly payments). By law, you can request one free credit report per year through one of the three major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You should request your report to review your score and correct any mistakes well before you apply for a mortgage. Don’t apply for credit. Keep in mind that a mortgage lender is determining your ability to pay back a mortgage up until the minute you sign the mortgage papers. In general, it’s not a good idea to take on more debt such as an auto loan or a new credit card within a year of buying a home. First-year expenses. First-time homebuyers can be so focused on trying to put together a down payment that they sometimes forget about the expenses that go into setting up a household. You should consider putting away an additional $5,000 to $10,000 for

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expenses such as a lawnmower, furniture and basic decorating, and for potential repairs involving your furnace, air conditioning, water heater and other appliances. Shop around. It’s important to shop around to get the best home possible for your dollar. And likewise, it’s critical to shop around for a mortgage too. Get at least three to four proposals from different mortgage lenders before deciding on the best offer. Don’t expect your dream home. Many first-time homebuyers purchase what’s called a “starter” home or a “fixer-upper.” While these are often relatively small and need some repairs, they’re also an opportunity to enter the real estate market and build sweat equity. To spot a starter home, look for one that needs some love and attention in a neighborhood with houses that are well maintained or being remodeled.

Hire an attorney. If you purchase a home directly from the seller without the assistance of a real estate agent, an experienced real estate attorney can help you write up a purchase agreement, according to FindLaw.com. Some sellers may be interested in this option, because it can save them thousands of dollars in commission fees. A real estate attorney also can counsel you on dealing with legal problems that can arise during the process of buying a home, such as during the title search. Home inspection. Even if you’ve come across the deal of a lifetime, never buy a house without a home inspection. An inspection will alert you to potential problems that may not be obvious to a person buying his or her first home. It also may be useful if you need to sue the seller for concealing problems with the home.

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Common questions from first-time homebuyers Why should I buy, instead of rent?

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 down-payment?

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 deals. Also, contact your local government to see if there are any local homebuying programs that could help you. Look in the blue pages of your phone directory for your Page 32

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. 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


at home in helena ■ Sunday, April 29, 2012

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. That’s why many first-time homebuyers turn to HUD’s FHA for help. FHA loans require only 3 percent down - and sometimes less. Closing costs–which you will pay at settlement–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 won’t be caught by surprise. If you buy a HUD home, HUD may pay many of your closing costs.

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 you’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. How do I know if I can get a loan? Most lenders need 3-6 weeks for the whole loan approval process. Your real estate broker will be familiar with lenders Answer: Use our simple mortgage calculators to see how much mortgage you could pay–that’s a good start. If the in the area and what they’re offering. Or you can look in your local newspaper’s real estate section, most papers list amount you can afford is significantly less than the cost of homes that interest you, then you might want to wait awhile interest rates being offered by local lenders. You can find longer. But before you give up, why don’t you contact a real FHA-approved lenders in the Yellow Pages of your phone estate broker or a HUD-funded housing counseling agency? Common questions continued >> They will help you evaluate your loan potential. A broker

Trusses are our only business.

406-227-5544 | 800-270-5544 850 East Clark, East Helena Page 33


Sunday, April 29, 2012 ■ at home in helena

>> Common

Sweet Dreams

questions continued

book. HUD does not make loans directly; you must use a HUD-approved lender if you’re interested in an FHA loan.

Furniture

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?

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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?

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 questions continued on page 37 >>


at home in helena â– Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Basics

Wish List Inventory

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, April 29, 2012 ■ 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) ___ ___ ____________________ ___ ___ ____________________ ___ ___

Features 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, April 29, 2012

>> Common

questions continued

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, April 29, 2012 ■ at home in helena

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At Home In Helena 2012  

At Home In Helena 2012 Edition