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Daylight Savings Time – Do It Right!

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: March 7, 2017 | Comments Off on Daylight Savings Time – Do It Right!

Spring is the perfect time to move ahead in more than one way…not only is it time to set your clocks ahead one hour, it’s also a great opportunity to take care of some household safety checks and balances that will serve your family well over the next few months.

Change the Clocks, Change the Batteries

Your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors do a great job of keeping your family safe – but only if the batteries are fresh and ready to go. Since most home safety experts suggest changing the batteries in these essential devices every six months, the twice yearly time change is an easy reminder that this time has come around again.

Keep in mind that most of the time, these batteries aren’t completely finished – they still have some life in them! Give them a second go-round in children’s toys, remotes, spin toothbrushes or other small household appliances.

You Light Up My Life

While you have the stepladder out for your battery changes, check your light bulbs and fixtures. Replace any bulbs that may be out or those that haven’t been replaced in a good long while. If you haven’t made the switch to more energy efficient LCD or compact fluorescent bulbs, now is a great time to consider it!

First Aid Update

Longer days mean more time spent outside, with more cuts, scrapes and bruises to show for it. Make sure your first aid kit is fully stocked with all the essentials you’ll need for quick fixes and cleanups. Also check your medicine cabinets for expired medications, both over the counter and prescription. Do not dispose of them in your trash cans or flush them down the toilet. Instead, visit the DEA’s website for information on a safe disposal location near you.

Review Your Emergency Lists

Take a few minutes to check your emergency information page near the phone. Make sure phone numbers, addresses and contact information are up to date and correct. It’s also a good idea to go over your emergency plans with your family, so that you know everyone is ready in case of a fire, weather disaster or other unfortunate turn of event.

Be a Dust Buster

Spring is one of the best times to tackle dusty jobs that once done, will allow parts of your home to function more efficiently. Check your dryer vent pipes and ducts for trapped lint which can lead to fires. Your vacuum hose is a great tool for this, and it can also be used to clean the coils in the back of your refrigerator. Clean or replace the filters in your heating and cooling units, the ventilation filters above your stove and any water filters you may have. While you’re at it, it’s a great idea to change the filters or bags in the vacuum as well!

Lovin’ the Oven

Another possible source of household fires is a dirty oven. If you don’t have a self-cleaning oven, get out your rubber gloves, open all the windows, and get to it!

Get Ready for Bed

Give your sanctuary a good once-over; the annual “spring ahead” time change is notorious for disrupting sleep schedules and leaving you and your family tired and irritable. Give everyone’s pillows a thorough wash and change the bedding from the bottom up. While you have everything off the mattress, flip it over to prolong its life and give you an improved sleeping surface. If you have a pillowtop or memory foam mattress, put the foot of the mattress at the head for the next six months instead of flipping it.

Because so many people experience sleep deprivation during this time, focus on improving your chances of restful sleep by keeping your bedroom dark, quiet and cool. Avoid using the TV, your cell phone or tablets before bed. Keep the temperature in the room on the cool side and try not to eat, consume alcohol or caffeine right before bedtime.

Once you’re set to go, you can spring ahead to longer days, warmer weather and outdoor fun – knowing you and your family are safe and ready for the season!

Nasty Neighbors – How to Cope

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: February 28, 2017 | Comments Off on Nasty Neighbors – How to Cope

We’ve all heard the crazy stories and seen the comedy movies, but when it’s the guy across the street that’s giving you grief, it’s no laughing matter. Your dream house can easily become a torture chamber when you’re living next door to the neighbor from hell.

So how do you learn to deal with these undesirables? The easiest way is to try and avoid them altogether. Before you choose your new home, here’s a few strategies you can use to scout out the area for potential problems.

Take the Nighttime Tour

Many house hunters make the mistake of only seeing their new neighborhood in the daylight before they buy. If you do a couple of drive-throughs during the evening or later night hours, you can identify issues in the making. Since most people work during the day, nighttime visits let you see how they behave when they’ve let their hair down in the comfort of their homes. Are they loud, with the TV at full blast? Are there arguments you can hear down the block or an aspiring rock sensation practicing in the garage next door? Knowing what you may be up against can help you make important decisions.

Ask and You Shall Receive

Doing some investigating can also help. Walk the area during times when people are out and about. Introduce yourself and gently mine them for information. “Hi. I’m John Smith and I’m thinking about buying a home down the street. What is the neighborhood like?” Something like this can work like a charm when accompanied by a warm smile and friendly handshake. You can also talk to local store owners who serve the area and go online to browse local registries for known sex offenders. Don’t forget to check the town clerk’s office.  You can see if a potential neighbor is building an addition, installing a pool or planning other potentially noisy and unsightly activities. You can request police reports associated with the home address to see if there have been noise complaints, break-ins, vandalism or other crimes in the neighborhood.

Most People Are Resistant to Change

If your potential neighbors have a messy, unkempt lawn each time you swing by, more than likely that’s always going to be an issue. If the dog three houses away is always barking, there will be little you can do to quiet him down. The house on the street where all the kids gather is a fixture, so you can expect the youthful noise and clatter to continue. If you see something that you know will drive you crazy, think twice about taking the plunge.

BUT….

What happens when you’ve already purchased your house, and discover that you’re in knee-deep with a problem neighbor?

Communication – the calm, problem-solving kind – is the key. Always approach the neighbor when you’ve had some time to calm down. Never initiate a conversation when you’re in the midst of a meltdown.

Loud neighbors? They may not realize that they’re disturbing others. Your elderly next door neighbor may be hard of hearing, and not know that you can also hear “Wheel of Fortune” every night at top volume. A kind conversation could solve the problem, but only if they know that you’re unhappy.

Messy neighbors may simply need a little help. A neighbor who hasn’t mowed her lawn or touched up the paint on her porch may be working two jobs, going through a messy divorce or having health issues. A problem-solving discussion can go a long way. Maybe you can introduce her to a local teen eager to earn pocket money by doing yard work or odd jobs, or offer to tackle her lawn when you break out your riding mower.

If your neighbors let their pets mess in your yard, mention to them that you’ve noticed this happening, and kindly ask that they handle the evidence themselves. A gift of a roll of disposable doggie bags that attach to Fido’s leash might help make your point.

Invasive, nosy neighbors? Keep your interactions polite, but brief. Give them a few minutes of your time whenever possible, but stay away from local gossip and don’t divulge any material they can use to fuel their fires. Make a plausible excuse to end the conversation after a short time. “I’m sorry, but I promised to call my mother at two” or “I have a couple of quick things I have to do before I pick up my daughter. Can I take a rain check on our talk?” will release you without prejudice.

If your neighbor gives you trouble about your property lines, walk the area together and determine what belongs to whom. If you can’t agree on who has the responsibility for or is entitled to certain spaces, consider having the property professionally surveyed to settle the problem once and for all.

What if these tactics don’t work?

If you have a homeowner’s association, it can be your best friend. Know the rules and regulations that apply in your community, and if your neighbors are violating them, make a complaint. In many cases, any report you make can be kept anonymous. The association can then address the issue on your behalf. If you don’t have a homeowner’s association, know the local ordinances governing your neighborhood. Try writing a personal letter or email to your neighbors first, covering your complaint. If they continue their behavior, you can also try calling in a professional mediator. The local courthouse, police precinct or bar association can help you find one, or check with The National Association of Community Mediation for a professional near you.

Although it’s almost certain to irritate your troublesome neighbor, filing a non-emergency complaint with the local police may be your solution. Make sure you have a documented record of the problem by keeping notes of incidents or taking photographs before you take this approach. You may get a resolution to your problem, but you’re likely to burn that particular bridge with this action, so it should be one of your last resorts for solving the problem.

If all else fails, consider taking your case to court. Before doing so, quietly approach some other neighbors to see if they have been experiencing similar issues with the nasty neighbor. If so, there is power in numbers. They may be willing to throw their complaints in with yours.

Keep in mind that most neighbors (unless they’re complete social misfits or psychopaths) aren’t bad neighbors out of spite or deliberate meanness. Many simply have problems they’re having trouble solving or need help handing certain aspects of their lives. Reaching out first with compassion and an offer of a solution is often the way to not only disarm the nasty neighbor, but to establish yourself as the best neighbor on the block.

Get a Great Mortgage in 2017

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: February 23, 2017 | Comments Off on Get a Great Mortgage in 2017

Are you thinking about buying a house this year? If so, you’ll be looking at mortgage rates that aren’t the rock bottom options we’ve seen lately, but are still lower than at most times is recorded history. How can you make sure that you get the best possible rate on your new mortgage? Use some of these suggestions and strategies to land a phenomenal rate!

What Down payment?

Most home buyers automatically assume they need a substantial down payment to secure a mortgage. However, depending on your personal situation and your lender, this may not be the case. While a 20% down payment is often noted as typical, the Department of Veterans Affairs offers zero-down VA mortgages for qualified borrowers including veterans, active-duty service members and certain members of the National Guard and Reserves. The U.S. Department of Agriculture guarantees zero-down mortgages as part of its Rural Development program. The loan guarantees are available in eligible areas — mostly rural areas, though some are suburban. Navy Federal Credit Union offers zero-down mortgages for qualified members to buy primary residences, and the Federal Housing Administration insured mortgages allow down payments as small as 3.5 percent. You can also find commercial lenders offering conventional mortgages with down payments of as little as 3 percent with private mortgage insurance.

An FHA Mortgage is Ideal for Less than Ideal Credit

FHA loans are popular because they’re a great resource for borrowers with imperfect credit. In 2016, the average credit score for an FHA home buyer was near 686, while the typical home buyer with a conventional loan had a credit score of 753. A credit score of 580 or greater is required for an FHA-insured mortgage with a down payment as low as 3.5%. If your credit rating falls into the 500 to 579 range, a down payment of at least 10% will get you an FHA mortgage if you can find a lender that would guarantee the loan. You can learn more about FHA loans here.

Think About a No Closing Cost Mortgage

Most buyers spend thousands of dollars in mortgage fees and other closing costs. If you pay those fees right off the top, you will often be offered the lowest possible interest rate. However, you may want to think about taking a higher interest rate in exchange for the lender covering all of the closing costs. For example, if you pay all the closing costs your interest rate would be 3.75%, while your rate may be 4.125% if the lender covers your closing costs. If you’re thinking of staying in your home for a shorter term, say 5 to 6 years, or making extra payments and closing out your loan early, this could end up saving you quite a bit over the course of your loan.

Shop Within Your Means

Many homebuyers make the mistake of “shopping near the top” of their budgetary limit. They assume that as time goes on, their income will rise, and it will become easier to make their house payments. However, our volatile economy no longer provides that security that our parents and grandparents usually had. It will be much easier to obtain a mortgage with a good rate if you’re working near the lower end of your financing spectrum. You can always “trade up” to a more expensive house in a few years if you find that your income rises substantially.

Shop Around

Don’t go with the first company that offers you a mortgage.  Even if a home loan only varies by a fraction of a point, you could pay $10,000 or more in extra interest – depending on how much you borrow and the term of the loan. Rates can and do vary widely, so take your time and compare offers. Your best option may come from a non-traditional source, such as a credit union or a little known lender you can find by using the services of a mortgage broker.

Stay Within a Two Week Shopping Period

Your credit score is a fragile thing; it will begin to drop when you have repeated credit inquiries over time. A 14-day shopping period is ideal when you’re looking for a mortgage. If you go much past this point, you could see a drop in your credit score – the last thing you want when you’re looking for a good rate. Search carefully and compare all your options, condense your timeline to protect your credit rating.

Good Faith is a Good Idea

Lenders must provide a “good faith estimate” of the costs connected to your loan. This tool allows you to compare apples to apples with the loan terms you are considering. One lender may offer a rate that is .25% lower than another, but the costs associated with the loan are significantly higher. You may assume that the loan with a slightly lower rate is the better deal, but lower costs assessed by a different lender may make the higher rate a better bargain. Make sure you get your estimate and check it carefully to make sure that your low rate isn’t a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Make Sure You Have Some Left Over…

Keeping a cash reserve will help you when it comes to securing a better mortgage rate. Many home buyers wipe out their liquid assets (checking or savings accounts, money market funds, certificates of deposit) when they’re collecting a down payment. However, lenders like to see cash reserves against a mortgage in order to deliver an optimum rate. They’re usually looking for two months – enough liquid cash after closing to cover your new mortgage payment (principal, interest, taxes, and insurance) for at least the next 60 days.

If you have any questions on how you can negotiate the best mortgage, don’t hesitate to get in touch! At Ernest Signature Custom Homes, we want you to be as comfortable with the home financing process as possible. Drop us a line here or call us at (912) 756-4135. We’re here to help!

Lawn Size – Is Bigger Always Better?

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: February 18, 2017 | Comments Off on Lawn Size – Is Bigger Always Better?

It’s a controversy as old as home ownership itself…how big should your yard be?

When you ask that question to fifteen people, you’re sure to get at least a dozen different answers. That’s simply because homeowners have their own vision when it comes to the grounds that surround their homes. No one view is right or wrong – it depends entirely on what you want to get out of your lawn, and how much time and effort you’re willing to put into it to make it the perfect complement to your house.

Most homeowners consider aesthetics first when deciding how much decorative space they want around their home. Do you picture rolling green vistas in your head, or a simple, chic rock garden out front, with the house taking up the majority of your land? Perhaps your vision is something in between, with spans of green grass accented by shrubbery, flowering plants, trees or perhaps even a birdbath or fountain. Knowing how you want your lawn to look is the first step when deciding if the lot a house sits on is the right size for you. Keep in mind that if you’re buying a home in a planned community, you may have to follow established community guidelines as to how you can accent your lot.

When you’re buying a home, the house, of course, is the main focus. However, if you’re looking at several different new construction options or established properties, the size and shape of the lot may be a consideration that serves as a tie-breaker when it comes to making your final decision. This is when you need to take some time to think about:

Do You Love Working Outside?

If you envision happily spent weekends riding your new lawn mower around, digging your new flower beds, experimenting with a backyard garden or clipping your own topiary, a larger lawn is probably for you.  However, if the idea of lawn work gives you hives, you may want to go as small as you can to reduce your stress level.

How Much Time Do You Have to Devote to a Lawn?

It doesn’t matter how much you love or despise lawn work, if your job requires 50 or 60 hours a week of your time, it’s a no-brainer. If you’re always running the kids back and forth to activities or are away from home often, a smaller lawn requiring less attention is the smart bet.

Budget is Important…

Effective lawn care can be expensive. If you decide to go the DIY route, you need to factor in the cost of plants, seeds, lawn care tools and ongoing care. Lovely lawns have a price tag. Hiring out to a service will add an additional bill to your monthly budget, so you need to weigh that cost against what you might want to use that money for somewhere else.

So here’s a scenario…you find the perfect home, but the lot is much bigger than you wanted. Do you walk away from the house of your dreams?

Not necessarily. There are great ways to reduce the size of an existing lawn to make controlling and caring for it more manageable.

Create an “Extra Room” Outdoors

A lovely rest area like the one above cuts down on lawn size by adding paved areas, a fire pit, lawn furniture and flowering trees and shrubs. Design your own expanded living space and decrease the amount of time and money you spend on your lawn!

Build a Deck or Install a Pool

Expand your home’s size by adding a deck. You’ll have more area for fun, and less yard work to do! A pool is another great idea for using lawn space. Pools do have their own expenses and time requirements, but if you love a dip in the water, it’s a trade-off that may work for you.

Install Wide Flagstone Walks

Chic, stylish and easy to care for, they give your home a unique look and cut down on lawn care worries.

Bring in Native Plants and Trees

By building a focused area of greenery, you can shrink the size of your lawn and still be green as green can be!

Hedge Your Bets

Create your own “privacy fence” by ringing your property with hedges. They do require some trimming to stay pretty, but the amount of time needed to accomplish this is significantly less than the time required to care for the grass they’ll replace.

Pond-er Your Options

Adding a pond to your lot is an unusual accent that will set your landscaping apart. If you don’t have small children who may accidentally tumble in, this may be the perfect way to individualize the look of your home. If you’re feeling ambitious, add koi for a special touch!

Buying and Selling Your Home – At the Same Time!

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: February 14, 2017 | Comments Off on Buying and Selling Your Home – At the Same Time!

Your life has taken a new direction – your company is transferring you across the country, you’re welcoming your third child into your two bedroom home or you’re sending your last child off to college. Suddenly the house you have doesn’t meet your needs anymore. You find yourself in the difficult position of needing to buy a new home – when you already have one.

The only thing trickier than buying your first home is the dilemma of needing to find a new place to live when you already own one. There are many issues to consider, the least of which is the delicate tightrope of timing you’ll need to walk to pull this off successfully. Many people don’t have enough disposable income on hand to pay two mortgages, and few people relish the thought of moving more than once because they’ve had to find a short term rental to bridge the gap between the time they sell their existing home and the time they can move into their new one.

Here’s some of our top suggestions for planning this difficult maneuver:

Be Market Savvy

Take a little time to become familiar with the real estate market or markets you’ll be working within. You’ll need to know if the current market favors buyers or sellers, since you’ll be filling both roles. If you’re moving to a different city or state, it’s very possible you may find that the market where you’ll be buying is very different from the market where you’ll be the seller. Your strategy and plan of action will depend on which side of the transaction has the power. In a market that favors the buyer, you’ll be more likely to have a choice of homes readily available for you. In a market that favors the seller, you’ll probably have several potential buyers putting bids out on your home. Ideally, you’ll be selling in a favorable market as well as buying in one. If not, you can use this knowledge to make your best move first.

Time Your Tactics Carefully

Whether you’ll buy first or sell first depends on a lot of factors. Buying first – unless you have a nice-sized nest egg put aside – can skew your debt to income ratio and make it more difficult to get a second mortgage while you’re already carrying your first. Juggling two house payments can be difficult, so make sure you’ll have the funds available to get you through the second half of the transaction. Be prepared to face the fact that your current house may be on the market longer than you think or may sell for less than you expect. However, buying first does have its advantages. It does ensure that you’ll be able to move on your own schedule, and not have to worry about the inconveniences of multiple moves and finding temporary housing. You’re likely to have more than one solid choice when it comes to a new home if the market favors buyers, which is a big plus if something goes wrong with your first pick.

Selling first will make financing your new home easier, but in most cases you’ll need to move more than once in a short period of time. Finding temporary housing may be difficult, and you’ll need to consider things like whether or not your children will be finishing a school year in the same classroom, whether you’ll need to put most of your things in storage, or the difficulties involved if you need to scale down to a smaller place than you’re used to while you wait to move into your new permanent home. If the market favors sellers, you may want to strike while the iron is hot and take full advantage of your opportunities. In some situations, you may want to explore the option of a rent-back agreement with your buyers. In return for a reduced price or the payment of rent, you may be able to delay your move out of your old house for up to 60 days if you need somewhere to stay while you finalize your plans for your new home. This doesn’t always work, as it is contingent on the buyers not needing to take immediate possession of their new home. However, if you need a short period of time to coordinate your transition, it never hurts to ask.

Have Some “Secret Weapons” Ready

Consider a bridge loan. Designed to be short-term loans, bridge loans are especially helpful when you don’t have deep pockets to cover the cost of two mortgage payments. They’re meant to be repaid in full when your original house is sold. If the market favors sellers, and your home has the potential to move quickly, many lenders are more than willing to finance bridge loans to consumers with a solid credit history.

Proposing a contingency sale is also an option. Buyers can stipulate that the purchase of their new home depends on the successful sale of their old home. If the market is competitive, sellers will be unlikely to agree; however, if the seller’s home has been on the market for a while, everyone could benefit from this arrangement if your home has features that will help it sell quickly.

If you have any questions about buying and selling a home at the same time, or would like some information and advice on local trends in real estate, don’t hesitate to contact us at Ernest Signature Custom Homes. You can call (912) 756-4135 or send us an email. Our knowledgeable staff is always ready to help you make the transition between your current residence and a new home a smooth one!

Organizing Errors – Avoid These Common Mistakes!

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: January 31, 2017 | Comments Off on Organizing Errors – Avoid These Common Mistakes!

Sometimes your organizing efforts take a wrong turn, and you discover that something that seems like a logical tactic isn’t the solution you anticipated. At Ernest Signature Custom Homes, we’re here to warn you about some of these critical errors before you happen to stumble upon them yourself. Why learn the hard way when we’re here to lend a hand?

Don’t:

Clean Everything off Your Counters

If you use something every day, such as a coffeemaker or a toaster, you’ll actually find that it’s easier and more convenient to have these items at hand instead of tucked away. Moving these items back and forth between a cabinet or cupboard and the counter on a daily (or possibly even more frequent) basis quickly becomes a chore. Just make sure to keep the item wiped clean and free of random food particles.

Put Your Entire Life on the Fridge

Streamlining your refrigerator’s front door is one of the quickest and easiest ways to tidy up your kitchen. Take down the souvenir magnets, photos, artwork, and report cards. Replace them with one clipboard or dry erase board for important messages or lists.

Buy Items for Organizing Before You Organize

Stocking up on the wrong kind of storage tools will actually set your organizing efforts behind. If you buy plastic bins and find out later that baskets will be better, or that you’re going to need storage tools that are a different size or shape than the ones you’ve bought, you’ll just be adding to your frustration. Go through your stuff first, decide what you’re going to keep, and buy the items you need to organize only those things.

Put Things in a Drawer and Call It a Day

Make sure that you organize within your drawers, cabinets and cupboards by using dividers and sub-containers. Bins, baskets, cups, bowls and other containers can hold like items and help keep you even more organized. Who needs yet another “junk drawer”?

Forget to Label

Be sure to note clearly on boxes, bins and storage containers that are hidden from view what is inside. You don’t want to waste valuable time going through eight plastic bins looking for your Christmas decorations or lawn darts. By taking a moment or two to label, you’ll save oodles of time in the long run!

Display a Lot of “Dustables”

While you may love your family dearly, think about the clutter you’ll have when you have dozens of photo frames on end tables, coffee tables or bookshelves. Stick with wall-mounted items that can be easily whisked with the occasional feather duster. The same is true for knick-knacks, vases, candles or other décor items. A few well-placed pieces are stunning eye-catchers that have a bigger impact on your interior design. When you do display these types of items, keep them together in a grouping for more visual interest, rather than spreading them around the house individually.

Put Your Whole Library on Display

Keep your bookshelves gorgeous by winnowing out the saddest members of your book collection. Damaged books, faded books, or books that have a musty odor should be tossed, donated or confined to under the bed bins, the kid’s toy boxes or other out-of-sight storage. Once your books are sorted, arrange them by size on the shelves. All mass-market paperbacks belong together, as do all trade paperbacks and full-size hardcovers. When stored with like types, your books look tidier and more attractive on the shelves. Oh…and don’t overpack the shelves! By leaving some shelf space open for decorative items, you break up the eye line and add a pop of visual interest.

Let Your Laundry Linger

When a bin is full, do the wash as soon as you can. A place to store dirty laundry is only a successful organizing tool if you use it properly. An overflowing hamper can really kill the mood of a room!

Forget to Use a Bedskirt

If you’re using under bed storage, be sure to hide the evidence behind a decorative bedskirt. Tucking items away and then leaving the evidence visible is only a partial answer to your organization problem.

Continually Change Your Systems

Organization works best when you’re a creature of habit. Don’t fix an organizing system if it isn’t broken. By keeping things in the same place all the time, organized in the same way, it becomes a habit that is easy to embrace. If you keep trying to reinvent the wheel with new and “improved” organizing systems, more times than not, you’ll end up with a bigger mess than you started with in the first place. Make sure that when you’re setting up your system, you emphasize function over form. Be sure that the way you’re organizing things makes sense. Your most used items need to be the most accessible. Find a method that really works for you so you can stick with it!

Leave It All until the Weekend

Organizing is a process, not a single task. Most of us look at organizing our home environment as one marathon event, rather than something that happens continually, bit by bit every day. Take five, ten or fifteen minutes here and there during each day to put things away, and you’ll notice a huge improvement in the appearance of your home!

Get Organized in the New Year!

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: January 27, 2017 | Comments Off on Get Organized in the New Year!

If you’re like many homeowners (or soon to be homeowners!) you’re always looking for new ways to store your stuff. There’s nothing better than knowing where your things are and being able to get to them easily, but for some of us, that’s one of life’s greatest challenges. If you could use a little help getting your home organized, the folks at Ernest Signature Custom Homes are here with some great ideas you can use to take your tidy to the next level.

First of all, don’t confuse “clean” with “organized”. Your house can be spotless, but still look a mess if there isn’t a dedicated place for everything. Visible piles of clothes, even if clean and folded, still make a bedroom look like a disaster zone. Stacks of books don’t make your house look like a library – they merely add to the clutter. Make sure that the things you keep in your house enhance its appearance instead of turning it into one giant, disorganized storage closet.

Here are some of our top hints and tricks for keeping your life (and your house…) organized.

Repeat after me…Space Bags.

These handy storage gadgets come in a variety of sizes and shapes to hold big, bulky or out-of-season items in a smaller space than you would ever believe possible. Simply load the bag with last season’s clothes, extra bedding or other squishables you don’t need on a regular basis. Zip it shut, pull the air out with your vacuum hose, and VIOLA! You can store three times the amount of stuff you’d expect in a closet or under a bed. The bags are sturdy, reusable and readily available at most discount and home goods stores.

A New Way to Fold…

Have more shirts and shorts than will fit easily in your dresser drawers? Try this technique instead; instead of folding clothes in half and in half again and laying them flat in the drawers, fold them over again and slip them into the drawer this way…

Gain Closet Space

If you have standard sized closets, double your hanging space with a handy closet doubler, or these  multi-tiered hanger holders. You can also invest in hanging shoe holders, sweater shelves or even closet kits like this one that help you fully utilize your closet space.

Repurpose Over the Door Shoe Organizers

Load up the pockets with school and art supplies, small toys and Beanie Babies in the kid’s rooms, lotions, extra soaps, beauty supplies and hair gadgets in the bathroom, spices, seasonings, tea or other pantry items in the kitchen, cleaning supplies in your laundry and lightweight tools or Ziploc bags of screws, nails or other small hardware  in the garage. Your things are off the counters, tables or floors, easy to find and out of sight behind the door!

Freezer Storage

Use clear plastic shoe bins to keep your freezer tidy and know what you have in stock at a glance!

Manual Labor

When was the last time you could actually find the user’s manual for your stand mixer when you needed it? Keep all manuals – and warranties – in pocket folders in a binder…that way you’ll know where they are when you need them.

Wrapping Paper Rolls – Taming the Beast

We all have at least a few partially used rolls of wrapping paper cluttering up our world. Half the time they unwind, get stuck on something and tear, making the paper useless. Here’s a trick…put a clear, zippered garment bag on a sturdy hanger. Load with wrapping paper and hang at the end of a closet rod in your laundry, spare room or coat closet. Pure genius!

Become a Kitchen Whiz!

Install a bookshelf on some open wall space for your cookbooks. It will display them nicely and keep them away from splatters. And depending on where you keep them now, it may open up some counter or cabinet space. Speaking of cabinet space…use lid racks to hold pot and storage container lids. You can stack the pots or containers, but storing the lids is always an issue. With handy racks like these, you’ll be able to keep track of them easily. An alternative idea for storing pots and pans…hang them from the ceiling or underneath a wall-mounted cabinet on sturdy hooks. This works especially well for copper, vintage-styled or brightly colored cookware. Sliding storage organizers like this one can also get kitchen items tucked safely away out of sight.

Utilize the space on the wall under your kitchen cabinets by installing towel rods, mug hooks, wine glass holders, microwave or convection ovens or additional shelving. Use airy baskets or colorful bins to store items out of sight on open shelves, whether they’re existing shelves or the new ones you install.

Hopefully you’ve picked up some ideas you can use to give your home a less cluttered, more polished look. In our next post, we’ll delve a little deeper into organizing by talking about some common mistakes people make when they’re trying to organize…and their efforts backfire. Some organizing tactics seem logical but just don’t work. We’ll warn you against them next time!

Hot Home Décor Ideas

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: January 23, 2017 | Comments Off on Hot Home Décor Ideas

If you’re looking for a few quick updates for your home, or perhaps planning your first living room, dining room or bath, you’ll want to take a look at some of the hottest trends in interior design!

Interior Curtains

Rather than limiting curtains to the windows, it’s popular now to hang a curtain rod in other areas of the house. A decorative brocade can create a serene yoga corner in the living room or family room, while a bright splashy print or serene solid can conceal the prep area of the kitchen from the seating spot. Are your kids sharing a room? Give them a little extra privacy by installing a vibrant curtain!

Mix and Match Bedding

It’s all the rage…your shams don’t have to match your comforter or your throw pillows! Choose complimentary colors and different patterns, or mix dramatic solids you usually don’t see together. If it is pleasing to your eye, go for it!

Surprising Vintage Pieces

Add an antique washstand to your bathroom, a throwback appliance to your kitchen or a charming historic mirror to your bedroom. Lay an exotic Turkish carpet in your entryway. Most rooms have enough flexibility of design to add an accent from another time.

Paint the Town…or Your Furniture!

Coat the breakfast bar with sunny yellow, or spray your wicker deck chairs white. Your daughter’s desk becomes a vibrant pink, and your son’s changing table a soothing blue. Paint your headboard seafoam green! This is an especially practical approach to modern decorating if you’re short on cash…comb local flea markets, Craig’s List or thrift and second-hand stores for used pieces that can be transformed with just a few hours of time and a can of paint!

Turn the Ordinary into Art

Cover a wall with mix and match plates from a flea market. Use wallpaper to cover vinyl window shades. Reupholster furniture with recycled curtains. Turn your old concert t-shirts into a one-of-a-kind quilt. Let your imagination go wild!

Re-think Your Seating

Move your couches and chairs away from the walls, closer to the center of the room. It gives the room a more intimate look, and improves the interaction between the people in the room.

Light Up Your Life

Floor lamps are coming back into style…and they have the advantage of putting more light exactly where you want it!

Update Your Hardware

Jazz up your kitchen cabinets or bathroom vanity with new handles or knobs. Vintage china, brushed metal or retro molded plastic are in vogue.

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Animal accents are hot right now. Try a peacock light fixture, butterfly print curtains, an elephant throw, a swan lamp.

Holding Out for a Hero…

Update a neutral room by choosing a “hero color”. Choose one exciting shade, and add accents of that color throughout the room. An area rug, throw pillows, curtains…your options are many, your limitations few!

Paint Half a Wall

Choose two shades of a color and stack them. Paint the bottom half of the wall in the darker shade, then put a paler shade from the same color family on the top half. This ombre look is taking the design world by storm!

Dining Room Drama

Give your dining room a new look by mixing and matching your table seating. Choose different styles and time periods, but make sure they’re all equally comfortable. Then add a dramatic patterned tablecloth for extra punch!

Decorate with Maps

As a décor accent, maps are where it’s at! Whether they’re brightly colored for the kid’s rooms, sketched antiques for the study or topographical specimens for the foyer, adding a map definitely takes your interior design in the right direction!

Pick up a 70’s Throwback

Remember tassels and fringe? Well, this staple of 1970’s style is back again! Trim a few pieces with this versatile accent and update your look in an instant.

Integrating a few of these quick pick-me-ups to your décor can bring the style of your home from tired to trendy over a weekend!

BRRR…It’s Insulation Season!

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: January 18, 2017 | Comments Off on BRRR…It’s Insulation Season!

At Ernest Signature Custom Homes, we take pride in using only the best materials and products when we’re building our award-winning homes. At this time of year, when winds whip and temperatures drop, it’s all about the insulation! We’re proud to offer Icynene spray foam insulation in all of our carefully constructed homes. When it comes to new construction in Savannah, GA, sweltering heat and high humidity aren’t your only concerns. They may not last long, but our two to three month winters can pack a powerful punch. It’s not unusual to see overnight temperatures in the teens during this time of year, so your insulation has to work overtime to help keep your utility bills in check.

Not all insulation products are created equal. Some are better than others at blocking sound, some promote better air quality than others, while some excel at managing the temperature of your home. After carefully examining all of our insulation options, our management team selected Icynene spray foam insulation because it delivers exceptional results across all of these platforms.

The spray foam application of Icynene allows the product to fill every available space in your new home, promoting optimal heating and cooling control. Fewer gaps mean fewer leaks and better protection! Icynene insulation expands up to 100 times its original size, filling cracks and crevices and stopping air leaks. The superior air sealing you’ll get from Icynene ensures that you’ll have the best possible management of your HVAC system. This spray foam style of insulation also helps support the overall structure of the building.

Traditional forms of insulation such as cellulose and fiberglass tend to break down, fall apart and disintegrate around the floors, walls and joints of most structures. Moisture, whether from the outside or from within the structure itself, is often the main culprit. Spray foam insulation maintains its integrity under high moisture conditions and provides better protection to your home.

The air sealing qualities of spray foam insulation help reduce the amount of dust, allergens and pollutants that enter your home. This dramatically improves the air quality of your residence, protecting your family from allergies and other respiratory issues. Spray foam insulations also promote health in other ways. Most traditional forms of insulation can be excellent feasting or nesting materials for rodents, termites and other nasty creepy-crawlies. However, spray foam doesn’t appeal to the tastebuds, and it doesn’t make a good home for most pests. In addition, fiberglass insulation is made with formaldehyde, which can release undesirable fumes into your home. Most spray foams, in contrast, are made without harmful chemicals and are more environmentally sound.

And if you find that it’s a constant battle to hear yourself think above the noise of televisions, street traffic, video games and overloud conversations, you’re sure to appreciate Icynene’s sound dampening qualities! Spray foam has the ability to minimize airborne sound transmission between rooms, giving you more relaxing down time and improved sleep.

For more information on Icynene insulation, visit them at www.icynene.com. You’ll see for yourself why we’ve selected Icynene as our insulation provider of choice. If you have any additional questions, feel free to contact us at (912) 756-4135 or email us at any time…we’re here to help!

New Year’s Resolutions for Homeowners

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: December 31, 2016 | Comments Off on New Year’s Resolutions for Homeowners

If you’re searching for New Year’s resolutions that you can actually keep, it’s time to turn your attention to your most valuable possession – your residence! As a homeowner, you can elevate your living space and feel good about your “willpower” at the same time – just by keeping a few of these easy to achieve resolutions.

Instead of cutting calories this year, try cutting your energy budget. Switch over to the newer, more efficient light bulbs. Keep your thermostats at a consistent temperature instead of turning them up and down, turn off lights when you’re not in the room, run dishwashers and laundry appliances only with full loads, and refer back to other energy saving tips that we’ve published in our blog over the past couple of years. At Ernest Signature Custom Homes, we’re dedicated to searching out new and innovative ways to save you money on your heating, cooling and electric bills!

Make a promise to catch up on or start those home improvement projects you’ve been considering. It’s so easy to let your busy schedule draw you away from tasks that can make your home safer, more attractive or more economical to own. Choose a project for each month and put it on a special calendar. Put a strict deadline on the task; make sure it’s completed by the end of the month. Even brand new homes can use a little personalization. You can add custom shelving to closets, paint your kids’ rooms or upgrade your furniture.

Divide your monthly mortgage payment by twelve. Resolve to set aside this amount per each month, and keep it in either a special bank account or stashed away somewhere safe. At the end of the year, make an extra mortgage payment to help reduce your debt load.

Clearing the clutter from our homes is something most of us want to do, but it seems like something else is always more important at the time. Vow to stick by your resolution to pare down and tidy up. Choose a day each month where you devote a few dedicated hours to decluttering a room. In January, purge your kitchen of gadgets you don’t use, expired pantry items, aging spices, ratty hand towels and most of the items in your infamous “junk drawer”. Winnow out abandoned toys and outgrown clothes from the kid’s rooms in February. Are you ready for the garage in March? After you’ve been through each room, start the rotation over again the next month so that you can keep on top of the urge to re-collect things you really don’t want or need. And before buying anything new this year, ask yourself these questions: Do I really NEED this thing right now? Can I “make do” with something I already own? Do I have somewhere to put it when I’m done using it? If the answers to these questions aren’t in line with the purchase, simply walk away.

Establish a schedule for housekeeping so that chores don’t pile up on you and overwhelm your weekends. Make a list of daily tasks that must be done, without exception, and make sure that all family members work together to do them. Dishes must be washed or loaded into the dishwasher each day, laundry must go in hampers and loads must be run with the hampers are full. Items not in their proper places must be put away. Pull the family together all at one time once a week to cover must-do’s such as changing sheets, cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming and dusting. If everyone pitches in, you’ll be done in just an hour or two, and can move along to other things you’d like to do.

Use your yard to “go green” in the New Year. Up the curb appeal of your home by resolving to improve the look of your lawn, shrubs, trees and ornamental plants. Create an outdoor calendar similar to your indoor versions to keep track of essential tasks. If you want to take it a step further, consider planting a vegetable garden to grow your own fresh produce, starting a composting pile to dispose of biodegradable waste or buying a rain barrel to collect and repurpose water for home use. Just make sure to check with your homeowner’s association to make sure you won’t be violating any local regulations before getting started with any of these plans.

With a little determination and planning, you can make your 2017 New Year’s resolutions a resounding success!

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