ICON Realty Group Real Estate Services South Shore of Massachusetts

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Just about everyone loves cozying up to a roaring fire and kicking back to relax in the cool night’s air. Far too many, however, leave that for camping once or twice a year at most. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way. You can build a firepit in five easy steps, beautifying your backyard and creating a comfy space for your guests. Here’s how to get started.  

Draw Up Your Design

Your first step is thinking about the design you want for your firepit. Although circular firepits are the most popular, you can build yours in any shape imaginable, including:

  • Square
  • Rectangle
  • Octagon
  • Teardrop
  • Draw up several designs using your preferred wall materials as a guide, ensuring they will snugly fit together. Make sure to note how large you want to make your firepit, so you can pick up the right amount of materials.

    Gather Your Tools & Materials

    You have many material options for the walls of your firepit. Concrete blocks are used most often, though pavers, bricks and natural stone work as well.

    Compare the size of your selected materials to your firepit design, and then calculate how many blocks, bricks or stones to buy. If you are building a 4 foot square firepit, for example, then you would need about 36 – 16 inch long concrete blocks to build the walls in three layers. No matter what materials you select, grab enough materials to make the walls at least 24 inches tall.

    Then, gather the rest of the supplies, including:

  • Leveling sand
  • Lava rocks
  • Spray marking chalk
  • Tape measure
  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Level
  • Mallet
  • With those items on hand, you are ready to get to work.

    Create the Perfect Space

    As you look around your backyard for the perfect space for the firepit, confirm it is at least 25 feet away from all combustible structures and vegetation. Then, use the tape measure and spray marking chalk to outline the design. With the shovel, dig down six inches, starting about two inches out from the perimeter. Verify the ground is reasonably level, then pour in the bag of leveling sand and rake it flat.

    Stack Up Your Wall Materials

    Working from your sketch, arrange the first row of wall materials within the prepared area and verify they are level. You can add more leveling sand to bring up low spots or tap the edges with a mallet to even out high spots. Once the first row is level, add the additional layers to the wall using an offset pattern from the one below.

    Add Lava Rocks to the Center

    Once the walls of your firepit are complete, all that is left to do is add a bag of lava rocks to the center. Beyond looking nice, the lava rocks will help hold the wood steady as it burns and promote drainage when not in use.

    Upon completing this project, surround the firepit with Adirondack chairs, benches or other outdoor furniture pieces that fit your fancy. Then, light up your first fire and enjoy.

    You know that you want to sell your house. However, you're still unsure about how to determine a "fair" price for your residence.

    Ultimately, setting a fair price for your home may be easier than you think – here are three tips to help you establish the best price for your house.

    1. Study the Housing Market

    The housing market constantly changes. Therefore, a buyer's market today may transform into a seller's market tomorrow.

    As a home seller, it is essential to analyze housing market data. That way, you can identify real estate market patterns and trends and plan your home selling journey accordingly.

    Check out the prices of recently sold houses in your city or town. With this housing market data in hand, you may be better equipped than ever before to differentiate between a buyer's market and a seller's market.

    Also, don't forget to assess the prices of available residences that are similar to your own. This housing market data will help you see how your residence stacks up against the competition. It may provide you with the ability to narrow the price range for your home too.

    2. Conduct a Home Appraisal

    A home appraisal offers a valuable learning opportunity, particularly for a home seller who is uncertain about his or her house's strengths and weaknesses.

    Typically, a home appraisal provides a home seller with plenty of actionable insights about the condition of his or her property. The appraisal often helps a home seller prioritize home improvements as well.

    During a home appraisal, a property inspector will analyze a house over the course of several hours. After an inspector's evaluation is complete, he or she will provide a home seller with a report that offers comprehensive insights about a home's condition.

    A home appraisal can provide a home seller with a better idea about how to price his or her house in its current condition. Then, a home seller can complete assorted home improvements that may help him or her boost a residence's value.

    3. Collaborate with a Real Estate Agent

    It never hurts to get expert support as you try to determine the best price for your house. Thus, collaborating with a real estate agent can make a world of difference for a home seller in any housing market, at any time.

    A real estate agent can provide guidance as a home seller preps his or her residence for the housing market. This professional can respond to a home seller's price concerns and questions and help a home seller determine what constitutes a fair price based on the current housing market's conditions.

    Perhaps best of all, a real estate agent will help you promote your residence to the right groups of homebuyers consistently. As a result, he or she can help you stir up plenty of interest in your home – something that may lead to multiple offers.

    Ready to list your residence? Use these home selling tips, and you can determine the best price for your house.

    Anyone can buy a home – all it takes is hard work and diligence to evaluate your home financing options. Fortunately, we're here to help you streamline the process of finding the financing that you'll need to pay for a residence.

    Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you determine how you will afford a house.

    1. Take a Look at Your Current Financial Situation

    Put together a monthly budget that outlines your current spending patterns. This will enable you to review how much you earn, what you're paying for housing and other pertinent financial information.

    After an in-depth review of your current financial situation, you'll be better equipped than ever before to determine how much you can pay for a house. Then, you can create a homebuying budget to help you move closer to acquiring your dream residence.

    2. Get a Copy of Your Credit Report

    In all likelihood, a lender will receive your credit score to determine whether you are a viable candidate for a mortgage. If you request a copy of your credit report today, you can learn about your credit score and take steps to improve it before you apply for a mortgage.

    The three major credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) provide one free copy of a credit report annually. If you submit a request for your credit report, you can gain unprecedented credit insights in no time at all.

    Furthermore, if you find errors on a credit report, don't hesitate to contact the reporting bureau. This will enable you to fix any credit report mistakes prior to applying for a mortgage.

    3. Reach Out to Local Lenders

    Banks and credit unions are happy to meet with you and discuss a variety of mortgage options. These lenders are available in cities and towns nationwide and can teach you everything you need to know about home financing.

    Ultimately, lenders can explain the home financing process and ensure you can avoid any potential pitfalls along the way. And if you ever have mortgage concerns or questions, lenders are available to respond to them at any time.

    If you need extra help prior to kicking off a home search, you may want to contact a real estate agent as well. This housing market professional understands the ins and outs of purchasing a house and can help you plan accordingly.

    Oftentimes, a real estate agent will meet with you and learn about your homebuying goals. This housing market professional then can ensure you won't have to break your budget to afford a terrific residence.

    If you want to buy a home but have limited finances at your disposal, a real estate agent is happy to assist you. Or, if you are searching for a mortgage but don't know where to begin, a real estate agent can put you in touch with top lenders.

    Work with a real estate agent, and you can improve your chances of acquiring a first-rate house at an affordable price.

    If you plan to sell your house and need to declutter quickly, hosting a yard sale may prove to be ideal.

    Ultimately, a yard sale enables you to get rid of excess items and earn extra cash at the same time. It also may help you connect with neighbors and lay the groundwork for long-lasting friendships.

    When it comes to hosting a yard sale, it is important to sell the right items to the right buyers. By doing so, you can increase your chances of transforming an ordinary yard sale into a successful one.

    Now, let's take a look at three items to sell during your yard sale:

    1. Clothing

    If you're moving from a warm-weather climate to a cold region – or vice-versa – you should sell clothing that you no longer need.

    Wash any clothes that you plan to sell as part of your yard sale. This will ensure all clothes are stain-free.

    Furthermore, consider the buyer's perspective as you determine which clothing to sell. And if you find that some of your t-shirts, turtlenecks and other clothes are faded or ripped, you may want to dispose of these items altogether.

    2. Electronics

    TVs, video game consoles and other electronics often prove to be popular yard sale purchases. As such, if you have excess electronics, you should sell these items at your yard sale.

    If you plan to sell an old desktop or laptop computer, make sure to clear the hard drive. This helps eliminate potential cybersecurity headaches down the line.

    Also, test any electronics to ensure they work properly. If electronics are battery-operated, install batteries to make it easy for yard sale shoppers to test these items. Or, if electronics require an electrical outlet, set up a power source that allows potential buyers to try these electronics.

    3. Appliances

    If you are moving to a new house that already has a refrigerator, washer, dryer and other appliances, a yard sale provides an excellent opportunity to sell your current appliances.

    Be realistic when you set prices for your home appliances. Check out the prices of brand-new and used appliances, and you can establish a price range for your appliances based on their age and condition.

    In addition, don't hesitate to negotiate with buyers on appliance prices. Because if you fail to sell your appliances at your yard sale, you may be forced to move these big, heavy items on your own.

    Those who understand which items to sell at a yard sale should have no trouble stirring up plenty of interest in any yard sale, at any time.

    Lastly, if you want extra help as you plan for a yard sale, a real estate agent can offer expert assistance. This housing market professional can provide home decluttering tips to ensure you can sell the right items during your yard sale.

    Start planning for a yard sale today, and you can move one step closer to decluttering and selling your house.

    Photo by Alexander Mils from Pexels

    If your wealth is tied up in your home, how can you free up some cash? A reverse mortgage is available to homeowners with mostly or fully paid-off mortgages. The monthly payments, which come from the lender to you, are not counted as taxable income. But there are mortgage taxes, and interest rates on reverse mortgages are somewhat higher than the current rate for a normal mortgage.

    The FHA's Ever-Popular Reverse Mortgage Offering

    Are you 62+? Consider the home equity conversion mortgage, available through the FHA. An approved counselor will lay out the process and point you to a qualifying lender. 

    Then, here's what you should expect:

    • There are initial and annual fees, as well as recording fees.
    • Expect credit checks.
    • And yes, you do need an appraisal, inspection and a title search. 
    • In contrast to the usual custom with a regular mortgage, as the AARP points out, you'll probably have to pay the home insurance and local property taxes yourself.

    The more you borrow, and the longer the term of your loan, the heftier cumulative interest charges you'll pay.

    The Other Ways to Get to Your Home Equity 

    Of course, you might sell and downsize. Not ready for that move? Think about...

    Cash-Out Refinancing

    If your credit score is 640 or above and you have a mortgage, consider cash-out refinancing with the FHA. This replaces your present mortgage with a larger one. The larger loan pays off your mortgage, replaces it and gives you the extra funds in a lump sum. You can be younger than 62. 

    The Private Reverse Mortgage

    Put up your home as collateral and enter a loan agreement with a close friend or relative. It's not altogether "private" — private reverse mortgages have a standard interest rate, governed by the IRS — but the rate is lower than a bank's.  

    The HELOC 

    A home equity line of credit (HELOC) empowers you to tap into your home equity. It's something like a credit card: there's a set credit limit. You only need to pay interest on what you withdraw. Note that HELOCs do not come with fixed interest rates.   

    The Home Equity Loan

    An alternative to the reverse mortgage that can work when you need cash upfront is the home equity loan. You'll pay interest on the lump-sum amount.

    Best of Luck (and Patience)!

    If there's one thing you must have before applying for a reverse mortgage, it's patience. A reverse mortgage, like a conventional mortgage, involves a full approval process, including those pesky calls and queries about proof of your capacity to repay the loan.

    But the result can make it all worthwhile.