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Liquid Landscaping – Beyond Birdbaths and Koi Ponds

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: July 21, 2017 | Comments Off on Liquid Landscaping – Beyond Birdbaths and Koi Ponds

Working wonders with water may seem difficult, but one of the most creative and exciting ways to add some visual interest to your yard is surprisingly easy – if you go with the flow!

When most people think of water elements for their lawns, their minds automatically float to rock-rimmed koi ponds and traditional birdbaths…with or without cherubs. However, today’s landscaping options are full of modern ideas for decorating with water. Let’s look at some of the most innovative concepts in fountains, ponds and pools!

Starting Small…

If you’re new to waterscaping, it may be a good idea to think small. A compact, portable greenery bowl such as the one below is an ideal starter project. These bright green water lettuces and succulents can accent a table top or balcony or serve as the focal point for a seating arrangement. Its low maintenance and inexpensive, too!

Fountains can also be petite or cover small areas. This Asian-inspired mini-masterpiece lends a Zen flair to your garden or deck, and the relaxing trickle can be the perfect antidote to a stressful day.

Long, tall tube fountains are a dramatic way to make the most of a small ground space. The graduated sizes add visual interest, and they’re easy on your water budget.

Wondrous Waterfalls

These water elements come in all shapes and sizes, and are absolute show stoppers! Chic, stylish and sophisticated, this dramatic retaining wall makes an eye-popping border or divider, and doesn’t rely on fish, plants or boulders to create visual interest.

If you’d like to blend art and water, investigate waterfall sculptures such as this one:

The solar-powered waterfall below features a built-in planter to combine florals or greenery with a natural looking stone finish; it’s right at home in your garden or nestled into your seating area.

Pools Galore!

Who says your family swimming pool needs to be a suburban eyesore? Elegance, style and practicality meet in water treasures such as these. If you’ve been thinking about both waterscaping and a pool, now is the time to “jump into” a decorative and functional pool/spa combination.

Or simply a pool…

Or a hot tub alone…

Ponds for All

Who says you need to keep fish to have a gorgeous pond? If you don’t have the time or patience for fish, try a free-standing pond such as this one.

The decorative tile mosaic detail fits in well with most home styles, and adding a bit of greenery to the pond draws the eye. It’s also a great source of extra seating when a bunch of friends come to visit – just perch on the granite rim with a plate of barbeque and a fork!

Create your own pond with a DIY kit! Will your friends and neighbors believe that this gorgeous pond with three different water plants is your own handiwork?

If you have a large lawn space and you’re feeling ambitious, blend your pond with a stream or waterfall for a gorgeous centerpiece!

Creative Repurposing

If you’re looking for one-of-a-kind water features for your home, don’t be afraid to raid flea markets, antique fairs and yard sales for unique pieces that can have a second life as decorative design elements for your outdoor décor.

Try an old claw-foot tub pool…

A wheelbarrow fountain…

A washtub rock garden with waterfall…

Or a tractor tire pond!

There are as many different ways to decorate your deck, lawn or garden with water as there are drops in the ocean! Let you imagination run wild…and let the water flow!

Pet Messes – Everyday Cleaning Tips You Need!

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: July 12, 2017 | Comments Off on Pet Messes – Everyday Cleaning Tips You Need!

You’re finally settled into your new home, and wouldn’t you know it – Spot and Fluffy haven’t wasted any time “christening” your new digs. If you’ve got a pet, you’ll have accidents – that’s as certain as death and taxes. But never fear…the “Clean Team” at Ernest Signature Custom Homes is bringing you the first in a series of cleaning tips that will help you remove any evidence of your pet’s indiscretions.

Smelly Cat, Smelly Cat…

We all remember the song from the TV show “Friends” – and it’s based in truth. Sometimes your cats (and dogs, ferrets, hamsters, etc.) can create unpleasant lingering odors. To make air fresheners with punch, turn to some basic ingredients you’re sure to have on hand. Keep in mind – they are inexpensive, effective and they are all completely pet and furnishing safe!

*White Vinegar – Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Shake well and mist the air with the solution. The vinegar neutralizes the odors quickly. If you’ve got a persistent stinky smell, use the vinegar at full strength.

* Nestea – Mix two cups of instant powdered Nestea according to the directions, and pour into your trusty spray bottle. Spray into the air to freshen your rooms; tea is a natural odor eliminator.

* Baking Soda – Long admired for its deodorizing properties, there’s several ways you can use baking soda to tackle tough odors. Add one teaspoon of baking soda and one teaspoon of lemon juice to two cups of very warm to hot water. After mixing well, transfer to a spray bottle and shake. The light spray will leave a fresh, lemony scent. If you prefer a vanilla scent, add 1/8 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract to two cups of water in your spray bottle, along with a tablespoon of baking soda and half a tablespoon of Parson’s lemon ammonia. Spritz away!

* Old Spice Aftershave Lotion – Dampen a cotton ball with Old Spice and add it to your vacuum bag or cup. As you run the machine, the scented air will blast through your home.

* Downy Fabric Softener – One tablespoon of Downy and two cups of water make a great air freshener for your home. Mix in your favorite spray bottle and you’re ready to go!

Baking soda can also be sprinkled on dry upholstery surfaces to absorb odors. Pet (and people) bedding, sofas and carpets can benefit from 15 to 20 minutes of deodorizing. Sprinkle, let sit, and either shake out the powder or vacuum it up.

Don’t be afraid to use the vinegar and Downy solutions on carpeting for deep cleaning. The Downy solution also has anti-static properties that make it easier for your vacuum to pick up pet hair.

If your pet “messes” on your carpet, it’s time to bring out the bigger guns. Since animals have a keen sense of smell and the tendency to return to the scene of the crime to leave another mess, you need to neutralize these odors as quickly as possible. Try a solution of a quarter cup of white vinegar and a few drops of blue Dawn dishwashing liquid in a quart of warm water. Scrub the accident area thoroughly with the solution and blot dry.

Another great deodorizer for pet accidents is corn meal. Sprinkle the corn meal on the spot after removing the evidence and/or blotting the excess moisture from the surface. Let it sit for several hours, then brush up the corn meal and vacuum. The corn meal is a natural deodorizer.

To clean a fresh mess on the carpet, pour a small amount of club soda on the stain after removing the evidence and blotting the moisture. Re-blot to remove excess soda. Sprinkle with baking soda and let sit for several hours. The baking soda works on the odor, and the club soda works on the stain. Vacuum up any residue.

Want to learn more about tackling tough pet messes? Keep an eye on our blog for more tips and tricks coming your way this summer and fall!

The South’s Best Flowers – Get Ready to Garden!

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: June 30, 2017 | Comments Off on The South’s Best Flowers – Get Ready to Garden!

Looking for some awesome suggestions to pretty up your yard? Think flowers! These lovely choices are ideal for our southern climate – and each has its own purpose and use.

The Birds, Butterflies and Bees

‘Stars and Stripes’ pentas are terrific producers, with oodles of bright blooms that bring butterflies and hummingbirds into your yard. The plant’s scarlet flowers with pink centers are irresistible to them. Their variegated foliage blends beautifully with other plantings. If you want a companion plant for these yard stars, consider chartreuse or black-leaved sweet potatoes.

‘Ragin’ Cajun’ Ruellias feature bright red flowers that also attract butterflies and bees. This plant may look delicate, but don’t worry ―it’s more than able to hold its own! Add to the drama by planting in sizeable areas or grouping the plants in decorative containers.

Keeping You Hanging…

If you’re looking to fill hanging baskets or containers, Mandevilla Vogue packs a powerful punch. It comes in both the pink ‘Vivian’ and luminous red ‘Sophia’ varieties. Plants max out at 18 to 24 inches tall and flower heavily all season. It’s also a hardy plant that anyone can grow!

‘Bonita Shea’ begonia, showy and compact, is a true attention grabber! Its curly leaves show surprising red undersides―the perfect pairing for its white flowers. It’s a great choice for hanging baskets decorating porches and patios.

Fill It In, Cover It Up!

Need to add continuity between your superstar plants? ‘Princess Blush’ and ‘Princess Dark Lavender’ verbenas are an excellent supporting cast! Full season bloomers, they don’t break apart or develop bald spots. They know how to mix and mingle ―use them in beds, containers, hanging baskets, and window boxes.

‘Cajun Blue’ scaevola is smaller than other scaevolas and bursts into flower early in the season. This happy plant plays well with others and loves to flatter its companions. It’s a certain winner with yellow, pink, or white blooms.

Looking for the ideal ground cover? The winner is…‘Blue Sue’ setcreasea. With its gorgeous pink flowers tipped by distinctive blue-tinged foliage edged in purple, it’s the perfect choice for low-lying beauty.

Taking the Heat…

Looking for flowers that won’t wilt in the warm weather? ‘Azure Skies’ heliotrope is the clear winner for heat tolerance. This American native plant thrives where others have fried. Add some to your lawn or garden and you’ll be rewarded with endless mounds of lavender flowers. It even springs back every year in climates like ours that have mild winters!

Tiny but Mighty

‘Plum Mist’ cuphea bursts with tiny, two-toned light and dark lavender flowers. Blooming dependably from summer through fall, you can use this plant in the front of your arrangements to add a special touch to your plantings. It’s also a “ballerina plant”…it likes to drape itself daintily over the edges of pots and bordered areas.

A Rose is a Rose is A Rose…

Who says you can’t grow good roses in the South? Try Knock Out Roses! These highly disease resistant blooms don’t mind the heat or humidity of a Southern garden, and serve as a peerless centerpiece to any arrangement.

This Year’s Winner Is…

If you like to change it up every year, consider these annual plants. These “tried and true” beauties pack a “flowerful” punch and allow you to create a whole new look for your garden every year. Choose from amaranthus, ageratum, alyssum, asters, impatiens, begonia, bells of Ireland, calendula, Chinese lantern, chrysanthemum, dianthus, foxglove, geranium, hollyhock, lobelia, nasturtium, nicotiana, phlox, snapdragon, sunflower, thunbergia, vinca and zinnia.

Perennially Popular

Are you a lazy gardener who wants maximum results with minimum effort? If you’re looking for traditional flowers that pop back every year, solid choices include gardenias, genista, plumeria, Chinese violet, jasmine or sweet almond verbena.

These Southern favorites are sure to put some color and joy into your outdoor décor, so grab a hoe and get ready to go!

Be Ready for the Additional Costs of Buying a Home

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: June 24, 2017 | Comments Off on Be Ready for the Additional Costs of Buying a Home

While there a lot of great surprises in life…unexpected birthday parties, a scratch-off ticket win or meeting the love of your life on the Internet, there are also plenty of not-so-pleasant surprises that may come your way. If you’re lucky enough to be tipped off as to the existence of some of them, you can avoid running headlong into them.

When buying home, plenty of buyers – especially first-time buyers – can be caught unaware when they’re looking at the additional expenses involved in buying a home. These “hidden costs” can add up quickly, putting you in a less than ideal position. At Ernest Signature Custom Homes, we want to make sure you have all the information you need to make an informed decision about home ownership. If your goal is to own new construction in Savannah, GA or one of its surrounding communities, read on. We’re here to give you a heads up on some little known facts about the financial side of buying a new home.

Fees – What You Can Expect

  • Government recording charges: To record your deed, mortgage and loan documents, state and local governments will each charge fees.
  • Appraisal fee: How much is your home worth? You’ll need an appraiser to make that call, and you’ll foot the bill.
  • Credit report fees: You’ll also cover the cost of the credit reports your lender had to pay up front to obtain.
  • Title services and lender’s title insurance: These fees are charged for services related to your home’s title. They’ll also be passed along to you.
  • Flood life of the loan fee: The government will monitor all changes in your property’s flood zone status; you’ll pay a small fee.
  • Tax service fee: Although small, be ready for this fee that ensures that the taxes previously paid on the house or property are up to date.
  • Lender’s origination fee: This charge for processing your loan application can be pretty pricey. Here’s an example: If you score a $97,000 mortgage loan with an interest rate of 3.5% and no points, you’ll be responsible for $795.
  • Attorney’s fees

You can’t eliminate all fees, but certain fees can be waived or negotiated. Application fees, ranging from $100 to a few hundred dollars, are a good place to start. If you take the time to compare lenders, you may benefit by choosing the lender with the lowest closing costs, as long as the terms on each contract are similar.

Inspections and Surveys

Some purchases may require home inspections or land surveys to “close the deal” – especially if your lender requests them.

Taxes, Taxes, Taxes

You know that homeowner’s taxes are a part of the deal, but many buyers forget that a good chunk of those first taxes are due at closing.

Escrow accounts, which the lender uses to pay the homeowner’s property ownership expenses outside of the mortgage, are required if your down payment is less than 20 percent. An escrow account allows your mortgage company to pay your taxes on your behalf. When you get your mortgage, it can be a shock to see at least a few months’ worth of property taxes, a year’s worth of homeowner’s insurance and homeowner’s association dues added to your first expenses as well.

Moving Expenses Can Add Up!

Will you need to hire movers, rent trucks, stay overnight in hotels or purchase airline tickets for the family? Will you need to purchase new furniture or replace items that are too difficult to move? Make sure you take these costs into consideration.

Utilities

Many community utility companies charge a set-up fee, or may require advance deposits. The cost of your monthly utilities will rise if you’re moving to a larger residence. You may also notice a jump in your monthly utilities if you’ll be picking up additional fees for services such as trash collection.

Insurance – Above and Beyond

All mortgages require that you purchase homeowner’s insurance. However, there are other insurances you may need to obtain before you can complete the purchase of your new house.

If you’ve put down less than 20% of the purchase price of your home, you will have to pay for Private Mortgage Insurance, or PMI. If you default on your loan, PMI protects your lender. It’s an expected part of the mortgage process with a lower down payment, and the fee you pay can vary. Rules related to PMI are often complex, but most owners who owe less than 78% of the purchase price of their home are able to drop their PMI insurance.

Depending on where you live, you may be required to take out additional insurance to cover floods, wind damage, tornadoes and earthquakes. Make sure you’re ready to cover these expenses if necessary.

Hopefully you’re now in the loop about some unexpected costs you may face when you’re buying a home. If you still have questions, don’t hesitate to call our experts at 912-756-4135 or send us an email. We’re more than happy to help you go through your purchase process and estimate the total costs.

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!

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