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Thursday, March 20, 2014

How Do I Pay For It?

If you have been reading our newsletters for a while, you know that many of our most popular home improvement projects are costly.  Your entire house in hardwood floors, kitchen and bathroom remodels, and even top-of-the-line new carpet for really large homes:  the price tags can be in the tens of thousands.  Many have planned ahead for these updates and have the cash set aside.  In fact, one of the most commonly used payment methods our clients use is American Express, because they have the cash and want the points.   Other clients take advantage of 18 and 24 month interest free financing during the time periods that we have these options available.  But for some of us, even 24 month financing is not enough to comfortably fit within our budget. 
If this describes you, great news!  As the real estate market and economy has improved, so has the availability of long-term financing options with great rates.  We recently discussed some options with Todd Shepard, 

Senior Mortgage Banker with Fidelity Bank, and he made us aware of several programs that may be exactly what you have been looking for.  Todd tell us that there are essentially three ways to finance a remodeling project:

-a cash-out refinance
-an equity line
-a renovation loan
The first two options can work well if you have a lot of equity in your home today.  Renovation loans work well in all situations because the amount you can borrow is based on how much your home will be worth after you make the improvements.
Let's take a look at the cash-out refinance and equity line options together, because they work very similarly.  When you apply for one of these loans, your bank will order an appraisal to determine your home's current value.  The bank will then lend you as much as 85 percent of that value for the cash-out refinance and typically 90 percent for the equity line.  From that amount, you subtract your current mortgage balance to determine the amount you net for your project.
Again, these options work well if you have a lot of equity in your home.  But what if your current loan balance is at or above 80 percent of your current value?  What if you need more than $10,000 to $20,000 for your project?  This is where the renovation loan saunters in to save the day.
The renovation loan was designed with you and your project in mind.  It has two huge advantages that make it an extremely useful financing tool.  The first is that the bank bases the amount they will lend you on the after-improved value of the home, so you get credit for the upgrades and additions.  The second advantage is that if you meet credit requirements, the bank will lend you as much as 95 percent of the after-improved value if needed.  By the way, this product can also be used to purchase a fixer upper and finance the improvements into the same loan.
Let's look at an example to see how these advantages can work for you.  Assume that you have a project in mind that will increase your home's value from $300,000 to $350,000, and your current mortgage balance is $250,000.  Because renovation loans use the after-improved value, that means you could borrow as much as $332,000($350,000 multiplied by 95 percent) which would net you roughly $82,500 for your project after you pay off your current mortgage.  Using these same figures you would only net $5,000 on a cash-out refinance and $20,000 using an equity line.  You've priced out maple hardwood floors and top of the line refrigerators---would that extra $62,500 to $77,500 come in handy for your project?
This renovation loan program is also ideal for a home buyer looking at houses that need a lot of cosmetic updating but not necessarily major repairs. 
The great news is that there are now options available, because for the past several years it was extremely hard to get a mortgage, much less a home improvement loan!  Contact a Mortgage Banker/Broker to find out more about these programs.

What's New At Enhance
It's that time of year that almost every day new products are arriving at the Enhance Design Center.  We just received a shipment of new Shaw area rugs.  Some are suitable to go outside: just what you need to freshen up your deck or porch. 

We have new carpet styles from
Mohawk, Perfection by Bliss, and Tuftex. 

If tile is your style, be sure to see the newest selections from 
Interceramic and Happy Floors. 

New countertops are a one-day dramatic update to your kitchen, 
and we have new stones in granite and quartz to show you.  

Friday, March 7, 2014

Are You Over Your Kitchen?

Kitchens are one of our specialties. A kitchen makeover can be as easy and affordable as painting your existing cabinets, updating your cabinet hardware (knobs and pulls), and adding new flooring, countertops, and a custom backsplash. Other clients want a complete remodel: new design, cabinets, appliances . . . .a brand new kitchen! We can assist you with either scenario. To help you get started, here are a few of the most common questions our clients ask about Kitchen Makeovers.
Will a kitchen remodel add value to my home?
Breathing new life into an outdated or inefficient kitchen can be the smartest money a homeowner spends. Kitchen remodels deliver more bang for the buck than any other home project, offering 80-85 percent return on investment. When planning your kitchen redo, the first step is setting a budget.
What is the average cost of a kitchen remodel?
Every remodeling project is unique, and costs vary depending on the homeowner's budget, tastes, and priorities (a minor redo can be $5,000, while an upscale overhaul can top $100,000). In general, however, materials account for 80 percent of the budget, while labor costs represent 20 percent. According to the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA), the largest expense in a kitchen remodel is cabinetry, which can account for about 30 percent. After labor, appliances are the next biggest expense, eating up about 15 percent of the budget. Countertops are about 10 percent, and flooring makes up 7 percent. The smallest expenses, at about 5 percent each, are lighting, plumbing fixtures, doors and windows, and walls and ceilings.
One of the biggest cost drivers for a kitchen remodel are structural issues. Changing the footprint of your kitchen in any way will bump up your budget. Moving the kitchen or building an addition involves major construction as well as new electrical, plumbing and flooring. Opening up to another room could require structural work and unforeseen costs if you don't have a load-bearing wall. Even relocating the sink or range would mean moving the plumbing or gas lines.
Understanding that there are no standard costs for a remodel -- every home is unique because of its age, layout and construction type -- will help you be more realistic about the potential costs of your project
How long should it take from showroom visit to finished kitchen?
It can take several months, even after the design is finalized. Custom cabinets usually take around four to six weeks for delivery. The extent of the job, the contractor's workload and the availability of materials also have an effect. Once the materials have been delivered, installation can often be completed in as little as two to four weeks.
What makes a kitchen remodel more or less expensive?
Structural changes can be minimal or extensive. Cabinets account for about one-third to one-half the total cost of a typical project and range in price considerably based on quality, the type of material they are made of, and whether they are stock (ready made in specific sizes) or custom (produced specifically for your kitchen in whatever sizes and finishes are needed).
The material you choose for surfaces including counters, backsplashes and floors can also account for variations in price.
Other key elements that factor in to the equation are talent and workmanship. In the remodeling business, you tend to get what you pay for. An accomplished designer, skilled tradesmen and expert installation crew will cost more. But you'll appreciate their ability every time you use your kitchen.
Where do I start? What do I need to be thinking about?
Start by putting together a detailed wish list indicating your goals for remodeling. Do you want more space? More storage? More style? A built-in dog bed? Organize it by priority, from the "must-haves" to the "in our dreams." Use websites like Pinterest and Houzz to view and collect pictures of rooms, products, materials, and architectural details that appeal to you. Visit model homes and vendor showrooms and make pictures of what appeals to you. Make notes on what you like about friends' kitchens (and hate about your own) and general concepts translated from other areas of your life. For example, glass-front cabinets and open shelving are very popular, but if you are not a cleaning fanatic you may be happier with solid doors that conceal clutter.


What are some trends in kitchen design?
~Social kitchens with adequate and comfortable seating
~Open floor plans, kitchens that are open to the family room
~Cabinets installed all the way up to the ceiling
~Built-in and concealed appliances, cabinets that look like furniture
~Clean lines and simple designs
~Touch activated faucets, pull-out faucets
~Gray color schemes (white and off-white are still the most popular)
~Light colored cabinets (in 2013 67% were painted white)
~Under cabinet lighting, task lighting
~"Warm" metal hardware like brass, aged gold, and black
~Smart storage solutions like lazy Susans to make potentially wasted corners fully functional, pull-out drawers, customized drawers and cabinets
~Large sinks with deep bowls
~Banquette seating area
~Barrier-free design and products: they make life easier for children, pregnant women, and seniors as well as individuals with disabilities

What is a CKD?
A Certified Kitchen Designer (CKD) is a professional, qualified by education and experience to research, design, plan and supervise the installation of residential kitchens. Only after a rigid examination conducted by the National Kitchen and Bath Association, has he or she been awarded the CKD title. A Kitchen Designer will meet with you and survey your existing kitchen to develop the design plan for your new kitchen. There is a fee for this service, however, if you are changing the footprint of your kitchen, it is well worth the nominal charge to meet with a true kitchen expert.

What is the kitchen "work triangle" and why is it important?
The "work triangle" is the kitchen area from the refrigerator to the main cooking area to the main sink. Connect the three and it should form a triangle (unless you have a 'one-wall' kitchen). It's important because at or immediately adjacent to the triangle's points, all the key kitchen activities - food preparation, cooking and clean up - take place. The work triangle helps to ensure that your kitchen will be functional. It keeps cooking activities centered in one area, with all the necessities close at hand. Whatever your plan, the sink should take central position if at all possible, as it's used more often than either the refrigerator or the stove. If you locate the sink on the same wall as the stove, with the main work area in the middle, you won't drip water on the floor when you go from the sink to the cooktop. When placing the refrigerator, make sure the single-door model, when open, faces into the work triangle, not out of it.

What types of kitchen counter tops are best?
Replacing counter tops is a great way to update your kitchen. Hard surface counters such as granite and quartz are the most widely used surface at this time. Their price varies depending on your stone selection. Granite will have more veining and movement in its look. Quartz counter tops have more of a uniform pattern and color. Quartz holds up as well or better than granite, never needs sealing, and costs a little more than granite.
Can I have wood floors installed in my kitchen?
We install beautiful wood floors in many kitchens with excellent results. Standing water can be an issue but normal kitchen activity is no problem. There are also automated water shut off valves that can be installed in your kitchen and laundry room that will shut off the offending water supply in the case of a leak in an appliance such as a dishwasher.

What are pull-outs? pot drawers? appliance garages?

These are just a few of the specialty features that increase the functionality of your cabinets. If you have not looked at new cabinets recently, you will be amazed at the options that are now available. A pull-out is a shelf that can be independently extended from the cabinet for easier surveying and retrieval like a drawer. Waste cans are now often on pull-outs. Pot drawers are an upgrade from shelves that pull out. 

They lend themselves nicely to storing all types of kitchen cooking and storage necessities. As they are full extension drawers, you will have maximum storage and complete access to items in the back of them with no digging to the back of your kitchen cabinets. An appliance garage is a general term used to reference any number of customized countertop compartments that are specifically designed to house and conceal large kitchen appliances. The appliance garage will usually be on the countertop and will match the facade of the existing top cabinetry. Within the compartment, there is typically a dedicated electrical outlet for the assigned appliance. Appliance garages will usually house appliances like coffee pots, microwaves or other large movable kitchen machines.

How many electrical outlets does my kitchen need?
A guide is outlets every four feet along your kitchen counter tops and at least one on the side of a kitchen island or peninsula. You will also need outlets for your stove, microwave, garbage disposal and dish washer. If you want less clutter on your walls above your kitchen counters, power strips can be installed under the wall cabinets. The strips will create convenient locations to plug in your kitchen appliances without the clutter of wall outlets.
Do all my new kitchen cabinets need to be the same style and color?
This is personal preference. Depending on your taste, your new kitchen can be designed with contrasting cabinets. Unique looks can be achieved by contrasting the kitchen island cabinets from the wall mounted upper and lower cabinets. Contrasting upper cabinets from the lower cabinets will create a custom look.
Contrasting counter tops is another design tool used to customize kitchens and create unique looks.
What is the process?
An Enhance Design Consultant will meet with you in the showroom to discuss the scope of your project. We will assist you in our Design Center with the preliminary selection of cabinets, countertops, backsplash and flooring. We will schedule appointments for you to meet with our Kitchen Designer and to visit our vendor partners for fixture and appliance selection. Remember, the best-case timeline for a kitchen remodel is three to four months start to finish, so if there is a deadline for your new kitchen, be sure to begin the process well in advance.