Country music superstar Miranda Lambert has found a sweet new place outside Nashville to contemplate whether she'll become the Academy of Country Music's "Entertainer of the Year" this spring.
She and ex Blake Shelton were named "Most Desirable Celebrity Neighbors" by a Zillow survey in 2013, but Lambert's only neighbor is nature on this 400-acre spread she landed for $3.4 million.
A recent photo of the farm on Lambert's Instagram page indicates she's doing more strumming than "Smokin' and Drinkin'" at her new Tennessee digs, which has lots of room for friends in its 3-bedroom main home plus two cabins.
The main house is cozy-country-luxury at its best - the perfect place for Lambert to snuggle up to her new love interest, R&B singer Anderson East. A massive stone fireplace dominates the living room, and soaring rustic wood ceilings and fireplaces grace nearly every room.
The animal-loving Lambert, who often posts photos of rescued pets from her no-kill shelter in Oklahoma, Redemption Ranch, has plenty of room for critters on this Tennessee acreage. There's a 2-stall horse barn and plenty of storage, plus a 6-car garage for horsepower of a different sort. The garage is topped by another studio-style apartment - presumably for a caretaker.
A large lake provides water recreation right in the backyard, complete with a boat dock and canoe storage.
Lambert won't even have to go into the big city to give a concert. An open-air pavilion on the grounds seats 60, and has a stage perfect for a private show - perhaps "The House That Built Me" and a little "Kerosene."
Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed mortgages fell this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow at 3.43 percent, down 7 basis points from last week.
The 30-year fixed mortgage rate hovered around 3.47 percent for most of the week before falling to the current rate.
"Mortgage rates fell last week to their lowest levels since May 2013 due to continuing financial market turmoil, concern about oil prices and shifting central bank policies overseas," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. "Financial market developments should continue to dominate headlines this week, as well as expected congressional testimony by Fed Chair Janet Yellen. Rates could move lower if her comments are more dovish than expected."
Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 2.66 percent, and for 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.59 percent.
Check Zillow for mortgage rate trends and up-to-the-minute mortgage rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.
Here's why your neighbor's house could be worth a lot more than yours.
We've all done it: You want to score tickets to a concert, but you don't want to pay face value, or worse, overpay. So you monitor the tickets' price online, watch prices ebb and flow, and then pounce once they've hit rock bottom.
Now apply this thinking to your home. Just like ticket prices, home values can vary wildly over time - peaking during a seller's market and hitting rock bottom during years like 2008. A smart home seller will monitor their home's value over the years so they know the general price range for their home (Trulia's home value tool is a great way to keep tabs).
But if you want to do some renovations to increase the value of your home for sale in Houston, TX, or are just wondering why the value isn't increasing much over time, you need to understand what other factors influence a home's value. Here are nine variables that might be stalling your resale value.
Location, location ... you know the rest
Proximity to a busy highway, proximity to a large vacant lot, proximity to not very much at all ... poor home placement almost always guarantees a stagnation of value. This is why two identical homes in the same neighborhood can have wildly different listing numbers if one is on a cul-de-sac and the other backs up to a four-way road. Conversely, if you've sat on a property that has seen infrastructure spring up all around it in recent years, you're likely to witness a pleasant jump in perceived market value, especially if the specs of your home appeal to younger professionals looking for walkability.
Stuck in that difficult in-between age
Character-filled old properties are always in demand (ah, historic charm), as are new-construction homes (zero renovations needed). But a house that is 30 or 40 years old holds a lot less sway over discerning shoppers, especially if its layout is odd or dated.
Does your kitchen celebrate the early 2000s trends, with dark wood cabinets and wall-to-wall carpet? Is your master bath a paean to the wonders of glass-brick walls and sponge paint? Renovations that were in vogue when you bought your home might now cause a buyer to come in and turn up their nose.
This is not to say, however, that a major renovation is the best way to increase your net return. "In this market, I almost always advise sellers to improve their property rather than fully renovate and then price accordingly," says real estate agent Nicholas Palance. "Fresh paint and flowers spruce up the place for pennies on the dollar."
Renovations that suit your tastes only
Maybe you put in your dream kitchen a few years ago, indulging your penchant for frosted glass cabinets and an avocado-green refrigerator. The problem in executing your singular vision? You risk finding out no one else shares your taste. "Most buyers want to put their own stamp on their new home rather than pay a premium for your renovation," says Palance. If buyers can't see past your personal sense of style, your home could sit on the market for months - or worse.
Was your home once flooded during a storm and suffered mold as a result? Was your street or neighborhood once associated with high crime rates, even if that information is now outdated? Did a fire ever occur on or near the property? Did a crime ever occur? It is near impossible to scrub the public record of your home's history; if your house has a storied history, then savvy potential buyers will know about it - and they may not be eager to inherit that mojo.
Too small ... or too big
One of the first stats potential buyers look for on a real estate site is the square footage. Most buyers are looking to upgrade, so your 500-square-footer might have limited appeal. Conversely, the bloom has fallen off the McMansion rose. The recession of 2008 taught us that oversized properties are not always an asset, and that a large house can become a burden if the market isn't strong enough to support it. Many buyers now are more pragmatic about how much space they really need to be comfortable.
Bedroom or bathroom shortages
The second set of stats scrutinized by buyers? Bed and bath counts. There's no buyer out there who doesn't dream of having a separate guest bedroom or getting a whole bathroom to themselves. Even the most coveted address won't be helped by having only one bathroom or a low bedroom tally.
Out of step with neighboring houses
Is yours a single-family in a sea of townhomes? Is your condo in a modern building surrounded by historic structures? If your place lacks area comps, a bank is going to have a hard time properly assessing its resale possibilities and is likely going to underestimate your home's worth come appraisal time. And that unfair assessment could give your buyer a reason to try to negotiate down the sale price.
No "wow" factor
"Some buildings have an intangible 'it' factor," says Palance. It could be rare architectural finishes, proximity to a renowned landmark, or the fact that celebrities are known to live nearby. But if there's nothing that really distinguishes your home - if there's no "hook" to help make it stand out - it's sometimes difficult to attract attention, especially during the busy spring market. Even if you take your property off the market for a reset, its listing history remains on the record and might drag down future pricing.
Here are easy-to-overlook selling points that entice buyers, and that sellers should highlight.
Sure, it's easy to market homes for sale in Charleston, SC, that sit on several lush acres, feature gorgeous European appliances, and are located in the most prestigious neighborhood in town (ZIP code envy, anyone?). But it's slightly more intimidating trying to make an average house in a middle-range neighborhood stand out from other real estate listings.
However, there could very well be things you take for granted that a first-time buyer might be drawn to - as long as you mention them in the house listing. Here are seven things buyers love and sellers fail to mention in house listings.
After living in a home for a number of years and likely outgrowing it (that's why you're moving, right?), it can be hard to market storage space if it's something you see as a flaw. Just remember: Showcasing your home in the best light is not just about what you love about it.
First-time buyers are not simply comparing your home with other homes, they also are comparing it with the renter lifestyle and every bad rental property that inspired them to make the leap to being a homeowner. A common complaint from renters is that apartments lack storage, which can lead to a frustrating, cluttered life. The vision of having a place for storing everything is a big motivator for many first-time homebuyers. So if your home is tricked out with walk-in closets, pantries, or other built-in storage amenities that you plan to leave for the new owner, make sure your agent boasts about that in your home's marketing materials.
In the same vein, if you've invested in upgrading your home with built-in closets, kitchen or garage renovations, or customized desks or bookshelves, make sure buyers know. All upgrades should be on your home's online listing. From the first-timer craving a clutter-free existence to buyers who are moving up into a family home and want each family member's space to have at least the possibility of order, built-in organizers can represent value and appeal to a wide range of prospective buyers.
Some buyers simply might not know to search for your ZIP code if it's just outside the one they're actively searching in. Or they might not be aware that your hidden gem of a neighborhood also happens to be tucked within a half-mile of a train station, entrances to three freeways, and two regional parks. Or buyers' proximity wishes might be different from the location requirements of their search. They might be looking at all homes in your town that meet their price range, but the fact that yours is within walking distance to a major employer or university could push you to the top of the list. And relocating buyers might not have the core knowledge of the area to even begin to know what is around your neighborhood.
Never assume! If your home is well-located in a desirable neighborhood, vis-à-vis major employers, universities, recreational facilities, or walkable shopping and dining districts, talk with your agent to make sure you're highlighting those amenities.
Boomers are not necessarily looking for homes with built-in disability features, but homes that allow "aging in place" and somewhere they could live comfortably for retirement and beyond. This means homes with level-in entrances (no steps to the front door), single-story layouts, and low-maintenance landscaping have a massive new audience. These features might otherwise not warrant a mention in a home's marketing, but they should - especially if homes near yours tend to have loads of stairs or other features that are difficult for people to navigate as they age.
Similarly, the movement toward aging in place has seen many more families moving older relatives in with them versus moving them out to retirement homes. These extended families often are looking for homes with a well-appointed "mother-in-law" or "outlaw" unit, or a second master suite located on the home's ground floor. Don't overlook marketing your home's multiple bedrooms with bathrooms en suite or completely independent living quarters.
5. Energy efficiency
Chances are, you won't forget to mention if your home runs entirely off the grid or implements gray-water reuse and rainwater harvesting. But even buyers who aren't hunting for a "green" home can be attracted to the budget-friendliness of energy-efficient features. So if your home is a pretty no-frills property but has a tankless water heater, dual-paned windows, and new insulation, mention it! If you've managed to get your energy bills down way below what's normal in your area, this could be a selling point you don't want to overlook.
6. Eco-friendly features
If you've configured your home to encourage greener living - beyond lower energy bills - that could warrant a mention in your marketing. You might think things like your little organic kitchen garden, backyard compost bin, or that $50 recycling center you installed are so low in cash value that they don't warrant a line in your house listing materials. But loads of buyers are attracted to these sorts of features, so why not call them out?
7. Natural, chemical-free, and hypoallergenic home maintenance
In a similar vein, if you have a hypoallergenic HVAC system or have used only nonchemical cleaning products for the last few years, you might want to mention these things as well. Marketers say today's consumers are careful about not just what they put into their bodies, but also what they put on and around their bodies. If you've taken care to create a home that works well for people with physical or philosophical sensitivities to common household chemicals, make sure prospective buyers know that your house won't make them sick!
Once all the moving preparations have been made, all the arduous moving tasks have been taken care of, and everything has gone more or less according to plan on moving day, you finally find yourself in your new home, surrounded by piles of boxes, tired and glad that your relocation is about to end.
To fully complete your moving adventure, however, you need to unpack your belongings and make your new place feel like home. But how to even begin unpacking?
First things first
No matter how much you want to get it over with as soon as possible, there are several important things to do before you can actually start unpacking.
Clean and prepare your new home. It's easier to wipe down shelves, clean windows, and mop floors before your belongings have been put in place. Make sure your home-to-be is spotless when your items arrive. If you can't get to your new place early enough to do a thorough cleaning, consider hiring professional cleaners to do the job for you.
Inspect and organize your belongings. Check all the delivered boxes and household items against your inventory sheet to make sure nothing is damaged or missing. Then have each of your possessions taken to the room where it belongs. If everything was properly marked and labeled, sorting out your items will be a piece of cake.
Open your box of essentials. There should be tools, toiletries, clothes, medicines, packed food, basic kitchenware, and other "lifesavers" in it that will allow you to refresh yourself, open the sealed boxes, reassemble your furniture, and so on.
Set major furniture and appliances. Position your large furniture pieces and bulky household appliances first. Then you can put any smaller items you unpack later directly in their rightful places. Plan your interior design well in advance so you don't end up moving heavy pieces around several times.
Tackle the necessities
What matters most when unpacking your items after a move is ensuring that your essentials are immediately accessible. So prioritize your belongings, and unpack only the necessities first.
You may not be able to unpack the entire bedroom right away, but you will definitely have to set up the bed the day you move into your new home. Reassemble it (if necessary), lay down the sheets, unpack the pillows, and spread the blankets so you can get a good night's rest - you're going to need it!
Provided that you have a change of clothes and some comfortable indoor shoes (as well as curtains on the windows to ensure your privacy), the rest of your bedroom items can wait until you find the time and the energy to deal with them.
Without a doubt, your personal care items, toiletries, and medicines should top the list of the most important items to unpack after your move. Put out toilet paper and soap, find your toothbrush and toothpaste, hang the towels and the shower curtains, and unpack any other bathroom essentials you're going to need in order to refresh yourself and wash away the weariness and stress of moving.
Also, fill in the medicine cabinet with the medications you have brought, and don't forget to take your prescription drugs on time.
You may have brought some food with you, or you may rely on delivery for the first day or two after the relocation, but you're going to need a fully operational kitchen as soon as possible in order to prepare healthy, homemade meals for yourself and your family.
Kitchens tend to take a very long time to unpack and organize properly due to the large number of items that need to be sorted out and carefully arranged.
As soon as you've hooked up the large appliances, such as the fridge and the stove, move on to your smaller kitchenware. Plates, silverware and glasses should be the first to find their places in cupboards and kitchen cabinets, closely followed by cooking utensils, pots and pans, and pantry items.
Kids' and pets' items
If you have young children, you should unpack some of their favorite toys, books, games, blankets and such during the very first hours in your new home. Keeping your young ones happy and occupied will let you concentrate on your work and finish it faster.
Of course, you should also take care of your pets' needs immediately upon arrival. It's a good idea to pack adequate pet food, water and food dishes, and some of your animal friends' favorite toys in your open-first box.
When you've unpacked the three most essential rooms in your home (bedroom, bathroom and kitchen), everything else can wait a bit. There are no deadlines to meet, so you can set your own pace when unpacking and decorating your new place - just unpack in order of priority and without procrastination.
If you stay organized, set reasonable mini goals and complete them promptly, clean after every unpacking phase, and dispose of the packing materials in a safe and eco-friendly manner, your new surroundings will soon stop looking like a warehouse full of boxes and start feeling like home.
If you have some fun in the process - listen to your favorite music, play "unpacking games" with your kids, and invite friends over to give you a helping hand - the exhausting unpacking endeavor may turn out to be much easier and faster than you expected.
A classic New York co-op penthouse now belongs to pregnant Hollywood star Anne Hathaway and her actor-producer husband, Adam Shulman. The 1,200-square-foot space cost the couple $2.55 million, but its storied New York legacy is a big part of that price.
The five-unit mansion was built in 1904 by the Clark family, the real estate magnates who built The Dakota a few decades earlier. As one of the last private mansions built on the Upper West Side, this unit is a piece of history.
But there is great potential for the future, too: It seems the co-op board will entertain selling air rights for expansion. Perhaps Hathaway has expansion on her mind, but she may simply want a place to call home while she stars in the premiere of her own one-woman off-Broadway play, opening this spring.
Despite being small, the space manages to live large with two bedrooms and two bathrooms -- perfect for the new baby coming soon.
There are, of course, a few perks to being the penthouse: skylights in the bedrooms and kitchen, and 18-foot ceilings. Spring should be lovely here for Hathaway, who can enjoy two planting balconies and a private full terrace for sunbathing or entertaining.
A sweeping iron staircase can lead to the penthouse, but when you're the last stop on the elevator, the staircase is mainly for show. The most unique feature in the space might well be the bathroom -- a vibrant, contemporary space in shades of gray, blue and orange.
While it seems Hathaway will be staying in this apartment during her time in New York, in the past she has kept apartments merely to store her massive wardrobe. But that proved a tough sell when she was ready to move on.
Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed loans fell this week, with the rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow at 3.50 percent Tuesday, down 11 basis points from last week.
The 30-year fixed mortgage rate fell throughout the week, reaching 3.47 percent on Sunday before rising slightly.
"Mortgage rates fell last week, touching their lowest levels since mid-2013 before edging slightly higher on Monday," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. "This week, markets will look toward Friday's monthly jobs report and should move upward if the data exceeds expectations."
Inspired by the Palladian architectural style of the 1700s, the villa boasts five bedrooms, eight baths, a library, pool room, elevator, and a luxurious screening room worthy of an Oscar and Golden Globe winner.
Examples of the home's elite craftsmanship include an imported Portuguese limestone exterior and continue inside with gold leaf and verdigris ceilings in the library and master suite, oak panels with mother-of-pearl inlays, and mosaic glass tile rotundas.
Villa Sorriso offers climate-controlled wine cellars and a viewing tower for taking in the acreage and its spring-fed pond, tennis court, hiking trails, horse barn, olive orchard and vineyards.
Antique European stone terraces overlook the grounds, which include a 65-foot infinity edge swimming pool with a wading pool and spa. There's also a 3,200-square-foot guest house.
Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed loans rose slightly this week, with the rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow at 3.61 percent, up two basis points from last week.
The 30-year fixed mortgage rate rose to 3.63 percent on Friday and hovered there before retreating.
"Despite minor fluctuations, mortgage rates were roughly flat last week, holding near nine-month lows," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. "We expect more volatility this week with important GDP [gross domestic product] data on Friday and, more significantly, a Fed meeting mid-week which should provide the first read on the Central Bank's reaction to recent financial turmoil."
The 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 2.81 percent. For 5/1 ARMs, or adjustable-rate mortgages, the rate was 2.77 percent.
Check Zillow for rate trends and up-to-the-minute mortgage rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.
Take a deep breath and ask yourself: Has the time come to relocate?
Moving isn't anyone's favorite thing to do. Aside from the physical process of shifting everything you own into a new space and/or paying people to do so, there are many other factors to consider, such as budget, location, and (perhaps most importantly) your sanity. But the challenges are worth the struggle if you've reached the point where relocation truly is best for you.
If you're on the fence about moving, start 2016 by perusing these 16 signs that it's time to take the plunge and start a new house search.
1. One word: money.
Yes, it's an obvious point, but examining expenses is a task that shouldn't be overlooked when you're considering a move. Sure, you might be able to upgrade your current home to fit your future needs -- but will you see a return on investment when it's time to sell? Now is the time to examine your finances and figure out if you should continue to save some cash to boost your down payment or explore financing for that upgraded master bathroom you've been dying to take on.
2. You've outgrown your storage space.
There's only so much Pinterest-surfing you can do for inspiration on reorganizing your kitchen and clearing out the clutter before you start to realize that your current space isn't working for you anymore. If more cabinets will make your life easier, so be it. It's up to you whether that means a remodel or a new kitchen in a new house.
3. Your family is expanding.
If you're adding a couple of kids and/or pets to your brood, upgrading your home is a logical next step. Aside from needing more space, aspects you may have overlooked before -- like A-rated school districts and that sweet neighborhood park -- may be suddenly appealing. Don't have kids? This rule still applies, since buying a house in a great school district is a big plus when it's time to sell.
4. The kids/roommates are gone.
In the opposite vein, don't waste money on space you don't need. If it's just you and your honey now, why not downsize to a smaller house or studio apartment to save not only on your mortgage but also on utilities, repairs, cleaning time, and more?
5. Your neighborhood is on the decline.
If the crime rates in your neighborhood are headed in the wrong direction, it might be a good idea to move -- quickly -- before it gets even harder to rent or sell your place to someone else. There's no shame in wanting to make your nest in a home where you feel safe and secure.
6. You have a dream your current place won't support.
Whether you envision a home dressed to the nines with luxurious upgrades or one with an extra room you can dedicate to home brewing (hey, whatever floats your boat), it might be a sign that you're ready to move on.
7. Your city isn't as appealing to future buyers as it once was.
Every trendy city has its moment. If yours is one of those whose popularityis steadily declining, selling now rather than later could save you a lot of cash (and heartache) down the line.
8. It would cost you less to move than to keep repairing your current place.
It can be hard to admit when it's time to throw in the towel on repairs, especially if you've put a lot of hard DIY work into your beloved abode. But it might be time to take a step back and think about how nice it would be on your stress levels and wallet if you could start fresh.
9. You've started cooking at home more (or less).
If you never have time to cook anymore -- and don't see that trend slowing down any time soon -- downsizing to a home with a smaller (or less fancy) kitchen could be worth the cost of moving. On the flip side, if a lifestyle change means you're at home more (and spending more time honing your knife skills), a larger, upgraded kitchen could be a great thing to focus on during your home search.
10. Your kids have stopped inviting their friends over.
Is your kid always like, "BRB, Mom, I'm going to Johnny's," but Johnny never comes to hang out at your place? Sounds silly, but it might be time to face the fact that since it has more room to roam, Johnny's house is just a more comfortable hangout spot (or his fridge is extremely well-stocked). If your kids seem hesitant to invite friends over because there is nowhere to play or no space to work on that group project together, you might want to rethink your housing priorities and start the house search (and bump a refinished basement or big backyard to the top of your list).
11. You're intimidated by the thought of rising interest rates.
If you bought your current house when interest rates were at their rock bottom and before housing prices started to rise, you might be reluctant to give up that amazingly low mortgage payment -- even if you really need a square footage upgrade. And while it's true that even a small increase in mortgage rates can have an impact on your bottom line, the reality is that you can't control all the factors. So if you've outgrown or just aren't happy with your current home, there's no reason not to at least explore your options. You might be surprised at what you can afford if you've built up enough equity in your current home.
12. You've been putting off moving for a while.
Similarly, if you've been meaning to put your house on the market but have a lot of work to do to prep your home for sale -- or are just dreading the home-selling process -- now is the time. While interest rates aren't rising too rapidly, they are rising. So if you've been waiting for the push to get started, this might be it.
13. You just don't jibe with your neighborhood anymore.
Still living in your old college town? Is the nearest grocery store (what feels like) a thousand miles away? Ask yourself whether your current living situation fits your lifestyle. If the answer is "no," it's time to figure out what you want in a neighborhood and move forward.
14. Your office commute is the bane of your existence.
Commuting to and from the office can take hours out of your week. Just think, you could be doing much more important things -- such as binge-watching Netflix (or just not wasting huge amounts of gas and time in hours of stop-and-go traffic). Whether you're starting a new job or keeping your current one, moving closer to work has a lot of benefits.
15. Things are getting serious with that special someone.
Having a new love doesn't necessarily mean it's suddenly time to pack up and move in. But purchasing a new place together can be spatially, emotionally, and financially rewarding.
16. A fresh start sounds like just the ticket.
Sometimes, life deals us cards akin to flashing neon signs saying, "GO FORTH AND START ANEW." If you feel that tug in your heart and are in a place financially to do it, don't hesitate. You only live once, and life's too short not to experience it fully.
Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed loans fell this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow at 3.59 percent, down nine basis points from last week.
The 30-year fixed mortgage rate fell throughout the week, reaching 3.56 percent on Monday before rising slightly.
"Mortgage rates fell last week to their lowest levels since last April on the heels of falling oil prices and continued global turmoil surrounding growth worries in China," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. "With little U.S. economic data on the docket this week, more 'flight-to-quality' should dominate headlines until markets find a bottom."
Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 2.79 percent. For 5/1 ARMs, or adjustable-rate mortgages, the rate was 2.66 percent.
Check Zillow for mortgage rate trends and up-to-the-minute rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.
Amid the typical New Year's resolutions, getting organized is an oft-promised, seldom-achieved goal that plagues busy parents, office workers, college students and everyone in between. Clutter and a messy environment are proven causes of distraction and increased stress levels, both of which prohibit creativity and productivity. Despite our best efforts, staying organized is a big challenge when life gets hectic and tossing our belongings wherever they fall trumps storing them where they belong (assuming they have a designated home at all).
Those seeking a more streamlined lifestyle this year are likely influenced by the rise of the minimalist movement, the allure of tiny houses and the surprising popularity of such texts as Marie Kondo's bestseller, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up." These trends are not simply strategies for enhanced organization; they're lifestyles that espouse a more intentional approach to living. Underlying the need to be organized, after all, is a desire for more control.
"Organizing is about making decisions," says Alison Kero, owner of ACK Organizing in New York City, adding that it's ultimately about wanting the best for yourself. Consider these steps toward a more organized and intentional life in 2016:
Toss or Donate
Decluttering is a natural first step in getting organized, but experts agree tossing things you don't want isn't just about making space for more stuff. "It's more about becoming aware of what you're choosing to bring into your life and making a decision to keep it or let it go based on what's best for you and what you really like," Kero says. Practically speaking, it's best to group like items together before you start purging so you can easily identify duplicates and keep your favorites.
"Start by doing an initial sort," says Sandra Schustack, owner of Clear Your Space East in Manhattan and New York Chapter Board Director for the National Association of Professional Organizers. "Only keep what you use and love; the rest is taking up precious space."
The idea of your space being "precious" or valuable is key to keeping sentimentality from sabotaging this process. "If you don't love it, need it, or use it, then it doesn't deserve a place in your home," says Janet Bernstein, Certified Professional Organizer and owner of The Organizing Professionals, LLC, in Philadelphia. "I keep my clients focused on this mantra as we're decluttering," she says. "It speeds up the process when you're forced to categorize your possessions in this way."
Experts also note that getting organized takes time, so don't expect overnight results. Remove items room by room, starting with the area that bothers you most. That way, you can carry the sense of accomplishment you feel in tackling that room to others throughout your space.
Find a Home for Everything
Putting back items you've decided to keep is not as simple as tossing them into a storage container. In fact, rows of clear plastic bins with expertly-applied labels simply disguise chaos as order, and don't provide for long-term organization.
"The reason so many people find it hard to stay organized is that they do it once, dismantle it when they need something stored at the bottom of the bin, and then don't have the energy to put it all back together again," says Holly Rollins, minimalist and blogger at HollyLaurel.com. Instead, determine the proper home for items based on when and where you need them, so access and storage are both intuitive and practical. Moreover, continue the "like with like" grouping strategy you employed during the decluttering process so you always know where to find (and store) batteries, light bulbs and even important documents.
Keep Functionality in Mind
Most experts agree storage containers are worthy investments, but purchasing these items before deciding how they'll be used is a waste of money. "I see far too many potential clients purchase organizing products believing these items will solve their clutter woes," Bernstein says. "What they don't realize is they're putting the cart before the horse."
Placing all your cosmetics in a decorative box under your bathroom cabinet may be tidy, but it's neither functional nor sustainable. Since you use these items frequently, they will likely end up strewn about drawers and countertops more often than tucked behind cabinet doors. Instead, organize your makeup by type within the top drawer of your vanity for easy access. "Get some shallow square and rectangular trays from the dollar store," suggests Alison Warner, owner of Prepped to Organize, LLC, in Chester County, Pennsylvania. "Stick Velcro tabs on the bottom of each tray to adhere them to the drawer. No more rolling items every time you open the drawer!"
This strategy can be applied elsewhere in your home, including the "junk" drawer in your kitchen or the utility cabinet in your garage. The trick is to organize spaces well enough that replacing items once you've used them becomes habit.
It doesn't matter how organized you become; the moment you start to accumulate more stuff, you'll be surrounded by the very clutter you sought to eliminate in the first place. Before you buy anything new, remember the criterion you used during the decluttering phase. "Keep only what you use, what you love, and what you need," Rollins says. "If you make and keep this promise to yourself, you'll never have organization problems again."
Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed home loans fell this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow at 3.68 percent, down 13 basis points from last week.
The 30-year fixed mortgage rate fell steadily until Friday, then hovered around the current rate for the rest of the week.
"Mortgage rates fell last week despite strong U.S. economic data as investors sought safe assets in the wake of stock market turmoil in Asia," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. "With rates near their lowest levels since late October, we expect rates to move cautiously upward this week."
Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 2.87 percent. For 5/1 ARMs, or adjustable-rate mortgages, the rate was 2.97 percent.
Check Zillow for mortgage rate trends and up-to-the-minute rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.
A disagreement between neighbors can escalate quickly. One minute you're mowing your lawn, the next you're plotting revenge on the homeowner next to you for parking his car on your freshly cut grass.
"You hear about neighbors chasing each other down with spades and all sorts of weird things," notes Nick Hall, director of the Dispute Resolution Center of Harris County, Texas, which offers mediation for civil disputes, including neighborhood problems.
It doesn't serve you well to pick a fight with the people who live on the properties surrounding yours, and especially not when you've just moved in. But it can be all too easy to start off on the wrong foot with a neighbor, and it can haunt you for years to come. (Another strategy: Check out the neighbors before you buy the house.)
While you don't have to be the next Lucy and Ethel, you and your neighbors should be able to get along amicably enough to avoid major disagreements when it comes to what you each do with your properties. Follow a few simple guidelines to get on your neighbor's good side from the start.
You're not required to bring a casserole, but a knock on the door and friendly handshake will go a long way. It's harder for your neighbors to make assumptions about you when you approach them with a friendly greeting -- and it's not as easy for them to hate you when they think you're just so darn sweet.
"Don't have the first contact with your neighbors be when you need something, or when you have a complaint," says Stuart Watson, a staff mediator at Resolutions Northwest, a center for dispute resolution in Portland, Oregon. "Build some kind of relationship first, so that when you do want to remodel your garage into a spare rec room ... you're not coming up to somebody you don't know with demands."
If you're moving into a community with a homeowners association or other kind of neighborhood group, Hall says it's a good idea to attend the first meeting you can and start the relationships early. You can even go as far as offering to organize a community event. "Everyone likes potlucks, so why not do a block party or a street party and invite everyone?" Hall says.
Know the Rules
Everyone wants to think they're right, but before you do anything to your property, be sure you're following the neighborhood or municipal rules when it comes to construction, noise and other hot buttons for cranky neighbors.
Reading up on the community's regulations should happen even before you buy the property, says Brad Aldrich, senior attorney at Aldrich Legal Services in Plymouth, Michigan, who specializes in real estate law, among other areas. Especially if the home you're buying is part of a homeowners or condo association, be sure any construction or landscaping you do on your property doesn't put you in the wrong.
"Forget bothering your neighbor -- if you wanted to put in a pool, but for whatever reason your local homeowners association didn't allow pools ... you're not going to be able to put one in," Aldrich says.
Being familiar with regulations and local ordinances, like setback requirements from the property line for any structures, could help you know if your neighbor is infringing on the rules as well.
"We get a lot of people call in and say, 'I've never owned a home before, and I don't know if my neighbor is doing something wrong,'" Aldrich says, adding that familiarity with regulations can help you avoid speculation, so any issues are based on fact and written rules or laws.
Let Them Know of Any Changes
Whether you're planning to redo the landscaping or put an addition on the back of your home, it's a courtesy to give your neighbors advance warning of any construction on your property.
Renee Bove, a staff mediator with Watson at Resolutions Northwest, says many of the neighbor disputes that come to mediation reach a heightened level simply because one person didn't communicate well with the other. "Oftentimes, it's just a simple misunderstanding that somebody had a pretty good intention that kind of backfired and had a negative impact. And they don't talk about it, so it takes a life of its own," Bove says.
For example, warning that you plan to put up a tall fence because your dog can jump high will probably go over better than erecting a privacy fence without any notice.
If it Would Bother You, Don't Do It
The rule of treating others the way you want to be treated still applies as a homeowner. If you keep your neighbors in mind when you make decisions, you're far less likely to tick them off.
An example: You don't want excess water runoff on your property, so don't assume your neighbor will think any differently if you direct your drain pipes at his foundation. Yet, Aldrich says water runoff is a common cause of neighbor disputes.
"If the natural topography of the land is that water runs off into an adjacent property, that's really not the other property owner's fault -- it's just the way the land is," Aldrich says. "But if that property owner were to put in a sump pump and then route the water line to where it dumps directly on the neighbor's property, well then, that is an act of the one property owner where it does negatively impact the neighbor," Aldrich says.
In Portland, Bove says a growing topic of dispute involves using a home for Airbnb stays, whether it's the whole house or individual rooms. The new home rental trend "just brings a lot more traffic and new people into a neighborhood that can be disconcerting for other neighbors," Bove explains.
It can be useful to have a conversation with your neighbors before listing your home for rent, and, ensure you are not infringing on any laws, guidelines or regulations.
Count to 10
Being a good neighbor doesn't mean you have to let everyone walk all over you (or your land). If you believe your neighbor is encroaching on your property or your ability to live peacefully, you shouldn't have to suffer.
But keep in mind, people have a tendency to dig in their heels when they feel their property is being threatened, so it's best to tread lightly when addressing issues.
"If you give someone a ticket, or if you go to court or to trial of some kind, you're going to make even bigger enemies of the neighbors," Hall says. "And yet, [you're] going to have to continue living together in the same neighborhood."
Bove uses the example of a homeowner parking a few inches in front of a neighbor's driveway during a personal emergency. Seeing the car blocking part of the driveway, but not knowing why, the neighbor assumes it is an intentional slight.
"They just didn't take a moment to come from a place of curiosity: 'Hey, I noticed your car was in my driveway a little bit. What was happening for you?'" Bove says.
In the event you simply can't resolve a problem on your own, mediation is often an effective way to ensure both parties are heard, and put some rules down without taking it all the way to court.
Watson estimates mediation through Resolutions Northwest resolves about 80 percent of the disputes brought to them, with a solution made that day. But the number of parties that come out of mediation feeling it was a positive experience is even higher, he says. "Even in those more rare times when they don't come to some kind of agreement, it was helpful for them to be able to have a discussion and to feel their concerns were heard."
Sylvester Stallone and wife Jennifer Flavin may be walking a lot of red carpets soon, thanks to Stallone's Golden Globe-nominated role in the movie "Creed." But they still want to walk away from their California desert retreat.
Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed loans fell this week, with the rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow at 3.74 percent, down seven basis points from last week.
The 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 3.78 percent on Thursday, then hovered there before dropping to the current rate.
"Mortgage rates fell early this week as financial markets returned from the New Year's holiday to a collapse in Asian equities, which pushed capital flows to safe assets including U.S. mortgage bonds," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. "We expect continued volatility this week leading up to Wednesday's publication of the December Federal Open Market Committee meeting minutes and Friday's all-important jobs report."
Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 2.96 percent. For 5/1 ARMs, or adjustable-rate mortgages, the rate was 2.97 percent.
Check Zillow for mortgage rate trends and up-to-the-minute rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.