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How to's and money-saving tips from resident homeowner and mortgage professional, Cathy West

Category Archives: Smart Money Center

Homeowner advice on the benefits of fireplaces

With a fireplace, homeowners will benefit from increased comfort, soothing ambience and a boost to their house's value. 

In the past decade, around 5 percent of all new homes have featured two or more fireplaces, according to HGTV. Part of the reason fireplaces are popular is because they can increase the value of a home due to the numerous advantages they provide to homeowners. They look good, they save money, they provide heat – there is so much to gain from installing a fireplace in your home that it's hard to find a reason not to. 

"It's not just the fireplace  – that whole part of the house is much nicer given the ambience," Steve Melman, an economist for the National Association of Home Builders, told HGTV in regard to the home value hike that fireplaces can provide. 

Fireplaces sell themselves, Paul Zuch, president of design and build company Capital Improvements, told HGTV. Even in the South, people seek out the pleasant aesthetics of fireplaces. The multitude of benefits fireplaces provide are wide-ranging. Where else can someone find a home improvement that they can describe as both energy efficient and romantic? There are a number of reasons to install a fireplace beyond the home value jump it will provide. Other reasons to build a fireplace in your home include: 

1. A unique kind of warmth
No other heating source offers quite the same type of warmth as a fireplace, Nayaug Chimney Services noted. The relaxing heat is more then just comforting to feel, it is also nice to watch the flames flicker away. The crackling the wood makes as the flames eat away at it, the glow the fire emanates and the comforting warmth that fills the room make a fireplace a no-brainer in terms of relaxation. 

In addition, this is a heat source that can keep burning away, even when those powered by electricity stop. In the case of a power outage, a fireplace can continue to provide the same warmth it always does, unlike other heating systems. In the dead of winter, during the harshest of storms, when your power gets knocked out you will likely head straight to the fireplace. 

2. Energy efficiency
The heating bill can be tough to face during the winter, which is just another reason why a fireplace will come in handy, according to Tech & Science. Wood-burning fireplaces exude plenty of heat, and should be enough to significantly lower your bills, since you won't have to heat as often through other means. 

It costs less to purchase wood than it does to pay high utilities bills every month, Nayaug Chimney Services explained. As a result, you will be much less dependent on energy companies during the colder months if you have a fireplace. This means that you can take control over your own heating, including the price. If you live in a heavily wooded area, you can heat your home for free. 

3. Keep the yard clean
In keeping with the free heating theme, using a fireplace will help you keep wood debris out of your yard, Nayaug Chimney Service noted. As the weather gets colder and branches snap and fall to the ground, they will begin to litter your yard. Some may find this to be an upsetting detriment to their home's allure, but the smart fireplace owner will see this as an opportunity for free heating. Whether you'd like to chop a few trees down to free up space, or a recent storm scattered branches all over the lawn, collecting wood for your fireplace is a great DIY home project that kills time and saves money. 

3 homeowner tips for boosting home value this fall

Cold weather is just around the corner and after some initial preparations, there's not likely much you can do outside once the dirt freezes and leaves wilt. The changing seasons will make it hard to get any outdoor work done. However, there are still plenty of DIY home projects you can do in order to increase your house's value before this winter. In fact, U.S. News and World Report ranked the five home improvements with the largest returns on investment.

The following projects will pay for themselves and more by the time you sell your home:

1. New entry door
A  new front door will add 96.6 percent of the amount you spent back to the value of your home, according to U.S. News and World Report. This kind of ROI is only realistic if you choose the right door. The media outlet suggested a steel entry door replacement. 

Steel entry doors are typically some of the least expensive front doors available for purchase, according to Hagen, a glass, windows and siding company. These doors are available in a number of varieties. Options for steel doors include different colors and finishes or even wood veneer coatings from better quality manufacturers. These doors are also resistant to the rigors of warping or cracking over time. Another option is a wood door, which offers a luxurious aesthetic that can't be found with other materials. These doors come with a high-end appearance, however they are subject to long-term degradation. Finally, fiberglass or composite doors offer the best of both worlds. These doors offer a balance between the savings of a steel door and appearance of a wood entryway. 

2. Add an attic bedroom
Adding an attic bedroom is a great way to take advantage of the extra space in your home, according to House Logic, a blog from the National Association of Realtors. If you are in search of creating more livable space in your home, then this is also a great way to ease zoning concerns and other local regulations often associated with home additions. However, if you decide that this is a project you'd like to undertake, there are a few things to consider. Keep in mind building codes, access to the attic, support structures in your home and the electrical, HVAC and plumbing systems weaving through the structure of your house. 

Adding an attic bedroom fell behind a new entry door by a significant amount in regard to ROI, though the estimated 84.3 percent return is still notable, according to U.S. News and World Report. 

3. A new garage door 
Before the harsh weather begins to place a beating on your home, replace your garage door in order to ensure it holds up in the winter. In addition, this is another project that will provide ROI. Changing your garage door can boost curb appeal and raise the value of your home by about 83.7 percent of the cost of the new entry. 

There are a few things you should check on annually in order to ensure that your garage door doesn't need replacing – in addition to after installing a new door, to make sure everything is running smoothly. First check the tracks that your door runs on, HomeAdvisor suggested. Minor damages can be banged out with a small hammer. In addition, when checking the tracks make sure that they are level and aligned so that the garage door runs smoothly. When the tracks are all set, wipe them down to make sure no debris gets caught. 

After this is done, lubricate the track, rollers and pulleys. Then make sure all bolts, nuts and fasteners are tightened throughout the garage door set-up. 

If you're looking for a great DIY home project to boost the value of your home this fall, try any of these three improvements.

4 homeowner tips on cutting heating costs

This winter and fall are going to be cold, and in order to get through them comfortably, you might have to spend some money on heating. It seems preferable to burning the furniture in the fireplace. 

However, there are ways to save money on heating that not only make your winter more comfortable, but save some energy – a plus in terms of environmental impact. This will be useful as the snow begins to fall. While it may be too early to start talking about how cold this winter will be, preliminary forecasts have predicted it to be cold and snowy, according to The Washington Post. This upcoming winter may even turn out to be a retread of the ill-famed winters of 2003-04 and 2009-10. 

Preparation may have to begin early however, because a polar vortex has been predicted for this fall, according to AccuWeather. 

"The vortex could slip at times, maybe even briefly in September for the Northeast," Paul Pastelok, lead long range forecaster for Accuweather, said. "There could be a significant shot of chilly air that comes across the Great Lakes region and into the interior Northeast sometime in mid- to late-September."

If a polar vortex is looming, wintertime heating prep may have to start earlier than you thought. If you're interested in saving money, are a first time homeowner or simply like a warm home during the colder seasons, check out the tips below on how to save money and keep your house heated:

1. Sunlight is still free
For almost every form of heating you will probably have to pay at least a little bit of money, except for this one. U.S. News and World Report went as far as to say the sun should be the focus of your temperature control efforts throughout the winter. During the day, make sure you open the curtains on your south-facing windows in order to let sunlight in and continuously heat your home for free from morning until evening. When the sun goes down, simply close curtains to ensure that the heat remains trapped inside overnight. 

2. Top down heating
Insulation was referred to by Bankrate as an "all-purpose force field against high energy bills." It both controls moisture levels through ventilation and reduces heat transfer during the winter and summer. The news source noted that attic insulation is a great way to save money on energy costs. Use the Department of Energy's ZIP Code Insulation Calculator in order to determine how much insulation is needed for your region. Insulating your attic can provide a return on investment in as little as one year. 

3. Keep heating to rooms you use
Imaginary friends and ghosts don't need to be kept warm. Instead, stick to providing heat to those who actually need it in order to save some money this winter. If you have rooms that you don't use very often, close off the vents in them so that heat gets directed to the rooms that need it, U.S. News and World Report suggested. If you set your thermostat to 62 degrees, and utilize space heaters in rooms that you actually find yourself in sometimes, you can save an estimated $200 per year. 

4. Micro-manage your thermostat
​While many people adjust they're thermostat when the home is feeling a bit uncomfortable, there are ways you can utilize the thermostat to save money even when you're not home. If every day, while you are at work, you adjust your thermostat 10 to 15 degrees lower for eight hours, you can save up to 10 percent monthly on heating bills. If you do this when you sleep as well, you can save 20 percent per month on heating costs. If you're willing to spend a little extra, you can purchase a programmable thermostat that will do the readjustment work for you. 

Start preparing and establishing these cost-saving habits in your home soon in order to prepare for what seems to be an especially cold stretch this fall and winter. 

3 first time home buyer tips on mortgages with low down payments

Potential first time home buyers have been avoiding the market, and renting or living with family instead, discouraged by the large down payments required in today's the home buying process.

Down payments have become more expensive in recent years, according to Finance & Commerce. Last year the median down payment for the cheapest 25 percent of homes was 7.5 percent of its sales price. The low was 3.1 percent in 2006, and the average from 2001 to 2007 was 4.2 percent.

"The numbers tell the story of why we have millions of potential homeowners who are renters or living with their parents," said Susan Wachter, a professor of real estate and finance at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School in Philadelphia, told the publication. "What has changed is the ability to become an owner. And that's changed through a down payment that's more than doubled."

Finding mortgage loans with low down payments is essential for young adults already burdened by student loans, idle wages and increased competition for properties. Luckily for first time home buyers, there are a number of loans that feature low down payments.

1. Federal Housing Authority insured loan
One sort of loan with a typically lower down payment is a loan insured by the Federal Housing Authority, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Some of the highlights of this kind of loan include the cheaper down payments, low closing costs and easy credit qualification. An FHA loan down payment can be as small as 3.5 percent of the home's sales price.

With FHA loans, penalties that come as a result of bad credit scores are significantly mitigated, David Hall, president of Shore Mortgage, told Yahoo. In fact, credit scores as low as 580 may be considered acceptable, though closer to 640 is still preferred.

2. State-specific home loan
In addition to FHA loans, state-backed loans are a possibility for first time home buyers seeking a lessened down payment. Hall told Yahoo that the Michigan State Housing Development Authority can provide up to $7,500 in financial assistance to be used for down payments.

Several other states also offer plenty of down payment aid. The State of New York Mortgage Agency has a program called the Down Payment Assistance Loan, according to the state's housing and community renewal website. The maximum assistance a home buyer can receive in New York through this program is $3,000 or 3 percent of the home's sales price – whichever is higher.

Other states that offer quality down payment aid include Colorado, Tennessee, North Dakota, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, Montana, Connecticut and Washington, according to a list compiled by MSN.

3. Veteran Affairs loan
Other loans with further specified qualifications exist, such as a loan from Veteran Affairs, Yahoo explained. If you are a veteran this is a great choice that include the luxury of no down payment. Loans provided through the VA have 100 percent financing. This sort of loan also doesn't include any monthly mortgage insurance requirements, typically included when a buyer puts down less than 20 percent of the home.

4. U.S. Department of Agriculture loan
Depending on what kind of lifestyle you prefer, a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan, or a rural housing loan, may be a fit for you. These loans offer no-money-down opportunities as well as special structures meant reduce monthly payments, according to Yahoo.

However you must live in the right area in order to be eligible for the loan, according to the USDA. The USDA website includes a map with ineligible areas highlighted, and a search feature, that make it easy to identify whether the region you intend to move to allows USDA loans.

3 pieces of advice for homeowners before selling

If you are preparing to sell your house, be prepared to make some repairs before beginning the home buying process again. 

Putting your home on the market means that you will be competing against everyone else in your area with their own homes on the market. You'll have to make sure yours is in peak condition in order to ensure it gets sold. 

"If your house is in move-in condition, it will appeal to a wider group of prospective home buyers," Neal Hribar, who works for Coldwell Banker, told Realtor.com. "First-time home buyers, and buyers with busy lifestyles, often will not consider buying a home that needs a lot of work. That is because they do not have the time or the experience to deal with the problems."

Chances are you don't want to waste your time on projects that won't make a difference in whether your home sells or not though. There are a number of repairs that should be done every time a home is to be sold to make sure that it is primed for a sale. 

Some of the home repairs that will help your house get sold are:

1. Make sure all the entry points look great and work better
The first thing every potential buyer will see when approaching your home is the front door, and they'll likely walk through a few other doorways during their tour as well. It is essential to make sure that each entry point appears perfect, since your home is a book that will be judged by its cover, according to MSN. Buyers don't want to have to deal with expensive problems down the road, so they will be in search of any signs of distress or lackadaisical maintenance. 

As long as we're discussing entry ways, the entire exterior of your home should appear as though it is a dream home for every buyer. This means maintaining the lawn and garden and touching up flaking paint, FindLaw noted. 

2. Patch up blemishes and paint them over
Once potential buyers make their way inside the home they will remain just as vigilante and if your wall is full of nail holes, they likely won't be very appreciative. To start filling the holes in your home, stop by your local hardware store and pick up some lightweight putty, MSN suggested. Fill up the hole with putty, wait for the it to dry, then sand the putty down so that it is smooth and even with the wall. Once this is done repaint walls that previously had holes in them, you don't want to project the message that you are hiding something. 

3. Fix any damage to flooring
Another of the things that buyers will likely notice early on is your flooring. Vinyl flooring will have to be checked for any tears or holes, McGeough LaMacchia Realty Inc. explained. Any damaged, or even worn-out looking vinyl should be replaced.

You also may want to make sure what the source of the damage is, since it may be water, which will cost more, MSN noted. This will likely be an expensive job if you hire a professional, $400 or more, so if you're confident in your DIY home project abilities, try it out yourself. 

In addition make sure that you fix any scratches in hardwood flooring, and replace damaged or worn out carpet. 

If you're selling your home soon, make sure to add these three tasks to your to-do-list. 

"Even if there are not multiple offers, experience has shown that a house that is in good condition will sell more quickly than one that needs work. A quick sale often means that the sales price will be close to the list price," Hribar told Realtor.com. 

3 homeowner tips on how to get a federal tax credit

If you're looking for a break on your federal income tax, try looking into solar energy.

Making your home more energy efficient is a great way to qualify for a tax credit on federal income tax return, according to the Internal Revenue Service. The Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit is available through 2016. The credit counts for 30 percent of the cost of the energy efficient appliance installed. For most properties there is no dollar limit on the credit available. If the credit amounts to more than you owe, the remainder can be carried over to the next year's tax return.

There are a number of energy-saving appliances that can qualify a homeowner for a tax credit, Energy Star's website noted. And another benefit is the possibility that your decision to care for your home may provide a return on an investment through money saved over time on energy bills. So it may be a good idea to look into the technologies that can earn you a federal tax credit.

A few of the installations that can earn a federal tax credit are:

1. A solar energy system
Certain solar energy systems can earn a tax credit by reducing the amount of energy generated by pollutant inducing energies. The solar power system must account for at least half of the property's energy in order to qualify for the credit, Energy Star explained. It also must be certified by the Solar Rating and Certification Corporation, or a similar organization. Both solar water heaters and solar panels pass the government's requirements.

Tax incentives, as well as climate concerns, have made solar panels popular in residential properties, Forbes wrote. In addition to the federal tax credit a solar energy system can earn, it can also drop your home's carbon footprint by 35,180 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. Local tax credits are also something to consider. Be sure to look up your state or municipality's own stance on solar energy systems.

2. Geothermal heat pumps
Geothermal heat pumps use the ground, rather than outside air, in order to heat and cool your home, according to Energy Star. They can provide a home with heating, cooling and often hot water through one of the most efficient technologies available.

When your home needs to be heated, the air outside is cold – this means that systems that use that air have to work hard in order to extract heat, wrote ClimateMaster, a geothermal heating and cooling company. The ground's temperature remains much more constant than the air above the surface, which is why geothermal heat pumps are able to do their jobs more efficiently than other technologies.

In fact, the technology is so efficient it can save you up to 80 percent on heating, cooling and hot water bills. The pumps consist of an underground loop. Water circulates through it and absorb's the ground's natural temperature along the way. This clever system can make your heating and cooling system 400 efficient to 600 percent efficient.

3. Wind Turbines
Wind turbines operate by gathering kinetic energy from the wind, Energy Star explained. The energy is then converted into electricity.

Small wind turbines are suitable for properties as small as one acre, and are a great way to cut emissions and generate your own power for you home, according to the Wind Energy Foundation. A turbine with a  5-kW generating capacity should be enough to power a single property. These systems are expensive though, costing between $10,000 and $70,000 with an average price of around $30,000. Ideally, they should be used in an area with an average wind speed of 12 miles per hour.

If any of these seem like a possibility for your home, do research into installation professionals and contact a tax expert for further advice on how to qualify for a credit.

Advice for homeowners on small changes with significant ROI

Even tiny changes can have a big impact when it comes to home improvements that provide a return on investment. 

Anytime the annual cost of owning a home can be reduced it is a cause for celebration. While there are many ways that yearly homeowner's costs can be reduced, these money-saving tips may not be common knowledge. If you're interested in making home improvement investments that will pay for themselves, there is a variety to choose from – or if you can't choose, do them all. 

Some cheap and easy home improvements that will eventually cover their own costs include:

1. Try out a low-flow shower head
Low-flow shower heads can be huge money savers in regard to the utility bill, according to the Christian Science Monitor. Some of the better low-flow shower heads can save an estimated $250 annually. Products include features such as flow-controls tied to temperature that maintain a balance between comfort and cost-savings. While the savings will also depend on shower usage, they are there for the taking. If this sounds like a great option, a low-flow toilet can be a similar way to slash annual utilities payments without too much initial investment. 

2. Set-up a programmable thermostat
Heating and cooling costs can drop by hundreds of dollars annually through the use of a programmable thermostat, MSN reported. Temperature control adjustments can be made so that your home isn't being heated or cooled when it doesn't need to be. Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman, deputy home editor for Consumer Reports, told the media outlet that with a programmable thermostat homeowner's can make back their investment within a year. 

These thermostats are easy to program as well. Some even allow the user to utilize their smart phone for setting preferences, the Christian Science Monitor explained. The device taps into your house's Wi-Fi network, meaning that you can set the temperature of your home from across the country.

One of these thermostats can pay for itself within five years, according to Nest Learning Thermostat. This can change through, depending on how stringent you are with temperature controls. 

3. Install Energy Star certified windows
Wrapping windows in plastic can be a great way to save on energy costs, however plastic wrap is only a temporary solution, the Christian Science Monitor noted. While plastic is definitely a simple fix, replacing old, drafty windows with new ones approved by Energy Star can save you hundreds per year. Replacing windows isn't the cheapest home repair you can make, but it is one that can definitely provide a return on investment. While the return will take a little longer to see, the pain is lessened a bit by the fact that your home will look better than before. Also, turning new window-installation into a DIY home project can save up to 25 percent versus hiring a professional.

Energy-efficient windows work in several ways, such as mitigating heating and cooling losses and blocking UV rays. They can even work well enough for you to reduce the size of your air conditioning system without sacrificing on comfort. 

4.  Set up insulation 
Heating and cooling loss through the walls, floors and roof account for 45 percent of what is lost throughout the year, Amanda Lowenberger, researcher for the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, told MSN. Typically the easiest place to get started with this will be in the attic. 

While the best practice for installing insulation will depend on location, for the most part the ideal thickness is around 12 inches, reported the Christian Science Monitor. While there is an equation for finding the return on investment insulation will provide based on location and home, the newspaper noted that it should take around two years according to CoolCalifornia.org. 

5 homeowner tips on outdoor projects

If you're looking for an outdoor DIY home project to enjoy the dwindling days of summer, there are plenty that will both improve the value of your home and kill some time in the summer sun before its gone until next time. Whether cleaning, installing or building there are a variety of ways in which you can enjoy the final stretch of summer while making your home look better than ever before. 

Some of the ways in which you can improve your home's exterior aesthetic while soaking in the sun include:

1. Try cleaning up your concrete
Cleaning the concrete around your home is an easy way to increase its allure without much effort at all, according to Today. All that is required of you in this case is a hose or a power washer. Spraying down the surfaces with a power washer should be enough to remover most blemishes. However if you feel that there is more to be done, you can scrub some concrete cleaner on the stain as well. 

To make it look even newer, try applying a stain that matches your home's exterior and resembles new concrete. You can either use a solid stain finish, or a translucent one if you're trying to create patterns. When you get your concrete surfaces looking clean maintenance from then on should consist of the occasional upkeep. 

2. Set up lattice in your yard
While vines can appear pleasing to the eye, they can be destructive to your home, according to This Old House. They can ruin your home's siding if you allow them to grow up unfettered. It is better to set up lattice in order to create some space between the vines and your siding. The lattice won't only serve as an appropriate growing surface, but will also look better than blank siding. 

3. Fix up your outdoor furniture
The outdoors aren't always kind to the products we place there. Wind, rain, snow and all the other elemental hazards can ruin backyard focal points, or at least cause some damage over time. Refurbishing your backyard furniture, instead of buying new pieces, will save money and provide you with a project to do, explained Today.  

For wood furniture, seek out a paint made specifically for outdoor furniture. This will eliminate the need for primer, and prevent cracks and peeling. Refurbishing metal furniture is fairly simple as well. Simply scrape off the rust, sand off old paint, wipe off the surface and repaint, and your furniture will look new again. 

4. Install a sitting wall
Sitting walls can serve as an attractive and functional border for a garden, or another section of your yard you'd like separated, This Old House stated. All you need in order to build a proper sitting wall are some concrete blocks cast to look like natural stones. 

Once you have your stones, simply dig a trench where you want your wall to sit, and begin laying down the base. As you go, use a caulk gun in order to make sure that the stones don't move around too much over time. This Old House noted that the appropriate height for a sitting wall should be between 18 and 24 inches. 

5. Fix up your back door
Another simple fix that will improve the appearance of your backyard is simply upgrading your back door. Whether that means getting a completely new one or installing lighting, it should be a fairly cheap and easy project. If you plan on refinishing your door, make sure that you get a finish that doesn't only look good, but is long lasting as well. 

Today noted that brand new lighting fixtures for your door should cost between $15 and $20. Also suggested were some potted plants neatly organized around the door. 

Try out a few of these simple projects in order to get the most out of the final months of warm weather. 

4 homeowner tips on painting walls

There are two home improvements one can make that will consistently improve the value of their home – as opposed to others that depend on circumstance. A high quality paint job, or custom molding or trim, can bring an average return on investment of 141 percent, according to Manor Works. 

A fresh paint job will bring a vibe of style and freshness to a home that may be in need of a spruce up before sale. If you are thinking of hiring a painter before you move, try reconsidering your options as getting a fresh coat of paint on the walls of your house may be easier than you think. 

Painting your home for yourself could end up saving a significant amount of money, while still proving a hefty return on investment – if done properly. If doubtful about your ability to properly lay a fresh coat of paint on your walls before the sale process begins, keep reading.

For those in need of some extra cash before beginning the home buying process yet again, painting your own home may prove useful. Below are tips for making sure the job is done right:

1. Begin by prepping your surface
Any successful paint job starts from a properly prepped surface. Popular Mechanics explained that, though this part of the process will not be entertaining, it is definitely the most important aspect and must be done with care. Each surface blemish you find on your wall, minor or major, must be scraped, filled patched or sanded in order to make sure the rest of your DIY home project goes smoothly.

In order to remove dirt, or grease stains, Benjamin Moore recommends trying some clean water, a little dishwashing detergent and a cellulose sponge. 

2. Protect surfaces with canvas rather than plastic
While a plastic drop cloth may be the less expensive way to ensure that paint doesn't get anywhere, it is definitely not the best material for the job, explained Popular Mechanics. Canvas will be much more effective at keeping paint splatters contained. The highly durable and rip-resistant fabric will lay flatter than plastic, which will prevent any tripping. 

Also, canvas, unlike plastic, will absorb drops of paint. When using plastic these droplets will simply pool or smear, creating even more of a mess. 

3. Make sure to cut in around the edges 
When the real painting gets started you won't want your paint roller bumping into edges and creating problems. To ensure that this does not occur you will need to create a buffer zone between molding, the ceiling and your roller, noted This Old House. 

In order to do this dip a 2.5 inch angled brush two-thirds into the paint, then tap the excess paint off, and back into the bucket. Now paint a two to three inch band around all corners, the ceiling and molding. This should be enough to keep the rolling from bumping around. 

4. Begin painting with the roller
Now it is time to actual begin painting. Fill your tray with paint until it just begins to reach the grates in the tray, according to This Old House. Dampen and then dip your roller into the tray and begin rolling it along the grates in order to evenly distribute paint and remove excess. Once the roller is completely covered create a 'W' or 'M' shaped pattern on the wall to distribute most of the paint.  Then use vertical, overlapping movements in order to fill in empty spaces evenly.

When the roller begins making a peeling sound, it is dry and should be recoated with paint. 

The above tips should be enough to pull off a paint job that make your home look great and increase its value. 

Advice for homeowners on adding a half-bathroom

Adding a bathroom or a half-bathroom can notably increase the value of your home. According to Money Crashers, HGTV estimates that adding a bathroom to your home can recoup 80 to 130 percent of your investment. Additionally, this will create a space for guests that doesn't compromise privacy – pleasing visitors and making your home more comfortable. 

Look around your home before starting, writes Money Crashers, and check for any underutilized spaces with at least 18 square feet of room. This should be sufficient for a half-bathroom. A full bath will require around 30 square feet. 

The required pieces
A half-bathroom, at the minimum, should have in it a toilet, a sink, and a mirror, according to This Old House. Storage is also nice, but not as necessary as the aforementioned three facets. Two of those, the toilet and sink, will also require plumbing. When you are seeking that underused space in your house keep plumbing in mind. For cost reasons, the closer the room is to water and sewer connections, the better.

Required by code
Building codes require that there be a window or vent in the bathroom in order to ventilate the space. Also, outlets will have to be installed on a GFI circuit as they are more protection against shock than regular ones. 

Insulation and privacy
Sound insulation and visual privacy are extremely important in regard to bathrooms. Depending on the location of the bathroom the importance of these two factors can increase significantly. Try adding sound insulation in shared walls inexpensively by using water pipes, drains or vents made of sound-absorptive materials. Additionally, exiting and entering the bathroom shouldn't have to be done within the view of everyone. Make sure the door is tucked away a bit, as your guests will appreciate the confidentiality. 

Keep these three bits of advice in mind when you're installing your half-bathroom, or even a full, as they should help you avoid any major issues upon completion of your bathroom. And when the time comes for a new home, enjoy the sight of a more valuable home come off the market because of your hard work.