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November 30, 2014 by Lois Szydlowski

5 Tips to Take Before Looking at Homes

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These are the common tips before you look at homes, so that you are not frustrated. 1) strengthen your credit score and 2) Figure out what you can afford. These go together because to get the answers, you need to talk with a knowledgeable mortgage broker, who is willing to help you. 3)Save for the down payment and closing costs. Depending on the discussion with the mortgage broker, your down payment could be Zero, 3.5%, 5%, 10% or 20%+. You can figure roughly that your closing costs will be about 6% of the purchase price. 4) Build up a reserve over and above what you will be spending in tip 3 to make the banks feel comfortable giving you a loan. 5) Put together a list of the likes and dislikes you have about a home and number them from best to least.
This will help you when you discuss with your Realtor, what you would like in a home. This will help the Realtor when he or she puts together the search parameters for the MLS, so that you are not looking at homes that you do not want or like.

September 10, 2014 by Lois Szydlowski

Before You Sell, Add Some Storage

You may be used to not having enough storage or living with your closets and garage bulging with stuff. Look around your home and see where you could add an extra closet: under the stairs, in the garage, unused space in your lanai? For less than $2000, you can build one within your home without tearing down walls.

Window Seat Bookend By Closets
Window bench with pillowws and storageIf you have a bedroom with a window in the center of the wall, you could install a closet on both sides and then build a window seat between them, creating a cozy nook that your next buyer will love and have extra storage to boot. You could even keep the closet shelves open and create a real reading nook around the window seat. No window? Just build out the wall and create a floor to ceiling closet with some open and some closed shelves, drawers etc. Paint it the same color of the walls and it will fade within the room. Paint it in contrasting colors and make it a showpiece your next buyers will admire.

Closet Space Under The Stairs
Many homes already have space cut out under the stairs but don’t make it fully functional. Install a bar for hanging clothes, shoe bags and sweater boxes. Store items in cabinets on wheels, so they can be rolled out when needed and easily moved within the storage space. This would be a great space for change of weather clothes, sporting equipment, rarely used kitchen equipment or that extra set of china and glassware only used for company..

August 28, 2014 by Lois Szydlowski

Before Resale-Open Up Your Kitchen

Do you wish you had a more open kitchen; a home that can entertain into the family room or dining room or den.  So many homes built in the 70’s and 80’s have these closed in kitchens in Tampa Bay.  And if you want to make your home more appealing to your next buyer, you don’t need a lot of money to add some pizzazz.

And trust me, every home with closed narrow kitchens
that I show to clients all say,
” Well, we will have to remodel the kitchen.”

Remove a Peninsulakitchen
Now granted you may not be able to spend a fortune on a brand new kitchen, but for less than $5000, you can give a whole new look to your existing one.  If you have a “peninsula” cabinet/countertop extending from the wall with cabinets above, you may feel like a short order cook passing food through it.  Why not remove the cabinets above for less than $1000 and hang some colorful lighting above the bar stools.

Details That Standout
If you are worried about losing some cabinet space, just remove the doors and the backs of the cabinets, give it a fresh coat of paint and use the open space for storing good looking kitchen needs.  How about installing pull out drawers in the existing cabinets around the kitchen because this always gets a wow positive response from both men and women.  And while you are at it, check out drawer dividers and shelf lifters that organize its contents.  Perhaps you can find room to build a 10-inch deep pantry in or near the kitchen (under the stairs?)

Opening Up the Floor Plan
Now for less than $5000 you can remove the wall separating it from the dining room and that includes repairing and refinishing the area around it.  And flank some built-ins are both sides of the entryway and use for dining ware storage.  This way you could eliminate the bulky cabinet or buffet and leave more room around your dining table.  If the wall separating both rooms is a weight-bearing wall, build a middle post for support and allowing for walk-thru and breakfast bar with bar stools.

July 24, 2014 by Lois Szydlowski

Adding Outdoor and Indoor Lighting to Your Home

Besides having exterior lighting on and around your home for security and safety reasons, installing outside lighting will show off your home at night for dramatic display and increase its curb appeal. Especially if you have outdoor parties—and who doesn’t in Florida; having creative lighting only adds to your party’s charm and fun. With Kitchen with Breakfast Nook in Viewlow-voltage LED lighting, you can highlight whatever outdoor pool, fountains, trees, hot tubs, waterfronts, fire pits, walking paths, screened lanai seating areas or landscaping you like. Why LED? Because they consume 75% less energy, are safer and last over 25 times longer than standard bulbs. They are also directional by nature, so they send out a focused beam. And because they last longer, you will be changing bulbs less often –a huge plus for your Security Lights around your home. And LED’s come in all kinds of colors and gives off a very bright white light as opposed to a yellowish one from standard bulbs. The one real drawback to doing this is the initial cost. But costs have come down dramatically in the past 3 years.

You will hear the term “color temperature” or light measured in “Kelvin”. The higher the number, the bluer the light will be. If you are looking to mimic the standard light bulb, choose a 2700 Kelvin LED bulb. You will find Kelvin numbers on all packaging these days.

Now when using LED’s inside your home, think of:

  • Under cabinet lighting in the kitchen
  • Recessed  or track lighting
  • Lighting up shelves that appear to float
  • Accent lighting in alcoves, plants, archways
  • Wine racks, refrigerators
  • Countertops, kitchen islands
  • Chandeliers and pendant lighting


June 12, 2014 by Lois Szydlowski

12 Financial Tips After Getting Married

Wedding rings on the background of moneyWhen I got married many years ago, no one gave me this list and I wished they had. While there are so many other things to do when you are getting married while still maintaining your current job and looking for a place to live, planning how your finances are going to be handled is also so important.

  1. Sit down with your spouse and list your combined debt (credit cards, car payments, prior child care) and determine how you plan to eliminate it over the years.
  2. Have you both talked of your goals and priorities? Life insurance, vacations, retirement, home purchase, children?
  3. Are you prepared to live on a budget and what is it?
  4. Do you both know your credit scores and how you can  either raise them or maintain them.
  5. Will you be having any joint accounts to pay bills from or are you maintaining separate ones and splitting the bills?
  6. Is establishing an Emergency fund important to you, especially if your income is flexible.
  7. Have you filed for new Social Security Cards if there are name changes involved, Driver Licenses if you have moved.
  8. If you already have insurance, have you changed the beneficiary on those accounts?
  9. Who is going to be paying the bills each month?
  10. Do you have a filing system set up for all your finanacial and legal documents and who will be in charge of this?
  11. Will you need to open a safe deposit box to store valuables and important documents?
  12. Will you both work when you have children and how will that work for you both? How tied are you both to your financial income?