Gender neutrality may help you sell your home! Here are some tips!

1. Choose a neutral color base.
A hard and fast rule for neutralizing is starting with shades of gray, beige, and white for walls, flooring, countertops and larger furnishings. To add some depth, use deeper tones like navy or black paired with pops of color in accents such as pillows, rugs, curtains, and wall art.

2. Choose tailored furniture with modern accents. Big tufted velvet or floral patterned sofas speak more to feminine tastes with a more formal style while a streamlined sofa in a neutral fabric paired with a contemporary coffee table and modern accents creates a relaxed, welcoming feel. Adding an orange leather chair with a herringbone couch fabric will please both sexes. 

3. Bring in texture and pattern in accents. A patterned rug along with fun accents such as cozy woven throws and textured pillows is a great way to add generic, chic appeal. Avoid delicate trinkets on tables and shelves. Instead, try adding a little industrial or vintage style with chrome, metal, and brass side tables, floor lamps, and other finishing touches.

4. Mix and match fabrics. Leather or velvet fabric furniture can be neutralized by adding accent pillows in linen, cotton, or canvas and simply draping a cashmere throw. Window treatments should be kept simple with soft, easy flowing fabrics or a tailored roman shade style.

5. Add elements from nature. Add a natural touch with earthy elements such as reclaimed wood tables, tree stump stools, woven baskets, natural fiber rugs, and twisted tree branch arrangements. Instead of a feminine style silk floral arrangement, try a cactus plant or other faux potted greenery. And wall art with a coastal or nautical theme or any landscape scenery are all perfect ways to add a mutually pleasing style.


Valuable tips to keep your home fire safe for the Holidays!

Christmas Tree Safety Tips

  • When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label “Fire Resistant.” Although this label does not mean the tree won’t catch fire, it does indicate the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.
  • When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green; needles are hard to pull from branches and when bent between your fingers, needles do not break. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
  • When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces and radiators. Because heated rooms dry live trees out rapidly, be sure to keep the stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of foot traffic and do not block doorways.
  • Tree disposal after the holidays: When you’re ready to get rid of your tree, please do not burn it in the fireplace or wood stove. The rapid burning and excessive heat can damage the firebox and chimney creating a serious fire hazard. Instead, find out from your municipality the day when trees will be picked at your curbside. Many municipalities recycle Christmas trees into mulch.

Lights & Electrical

  • Indoors or outside, always use CSA approved lights.  Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets.
  • Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord.
  • Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
  • Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples, not nails or tacks, to hold strings in place. Or, run strings of lights through hooks (available at hardware stores).
  • Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
  • For added electric-shock protection, plug outdoor electric lights and decorations into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold. GFCIs can be installed permanently to household circuits by a qualified electrician.


  • Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or non-leaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children.
  • Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.
  • In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable, keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children to avoid the child swallowing or inhaling small pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.
  • Wear gloves to avoid eye and skin irritation while decorating with spun glass “angel hair.” Follow container directions carefully to avoid lung irritation while decorating with artificial snow sprays.

Holiday Entertaining

  • Test your smoke alarms and tell guests about your home fire escape plan.  Ensure they are aware of all exits in your home.
  • Keep children and pets away from lit candles.
  • Keep matches and lighters up high in a locked cabinet.
  • Stay in the kitchen when cooking.
  • Ask smokers to smoke outside. Remind smokers to keep their smoking materials with them so young children do not touch them.
  • Provide large, deep ashtrays for smokers. Wet cigarette butts with water before discarding.
  • Don’t drink & drive or let your guests drink & drive.  Make sure you plan ahead and have a designated driver, arrange for a cab or other alternative transportation.


To renovate, or not when selling your home?

Walls and floors

Replacing or refinishing your flooring and painting the walls are the quickest and least expensive ways to give a house new life, Aubrey says. With these enhancements, you can expect roughly a 15% uptick in asking price.

Paint color matters. Shades of gray are in with buyers right now; stay away from tan and beige hues—they scream the era of Bill Clinton and Seattle grunge, Aubrey says. While you can certainly go the DIY route with paint, hiring a pro will get the best results. Expect to spend $2,000 to $3,000 for whole-house interior painting, Aubrey says.

The same goes for new carpet. A sturdy, builder-grade fiber in a neutral color that doesn’t compete with your wall color is the way to go. While most buyers prefer hardwood floors, they’re pricey to install. If you have existing hardwood floors, refinishing them will bring back the luster.

If you live in an area where ceramic tile is the standard (hey, we’re looking at you, Florida), a less expensive and durable option is DuraCeramic, an engineered tile that mimics the look of ceramic without the high cost, Aubrey says. You can find it for less than $3 per square foot.


According to Remodeling magazine’s 2015 Cost vs. Value Report, replacing your existing front door with a new steel door will net you a 101.8% return on resale for a minimal replacement cost of about $1,230. Who knew? But think about it: It’s the first and last thing you’ll touch on your home visit. It makes an impression.

Installing a new garage door has an impact on buyers, too. Even better: It offers an 88% return at resale and costs an average of about $1,600 to replace, according to the Remodeling report.

Roof and siding

Adding a new roof and replacing your home’s unsightly vinyl siding will also yield a high ROI, Aubrey says. His assertion is backed by the Cost vs. Value Report, which found that homeowners recouped 72% and 80% of the cost, respectively, for those upgrades. Another benefit: When it comes time for inspection and appraisal, having those repairs done will not only increase the value of your home but also reduce the likelihood of being forced to make fixes or adjust pricing later in the process.


A modern kitchen is a top draw for buyers—but don’t try to overhaul a dated one, which could cost mucho dinero. Buying new cabinet drawer pulls, painting or refacing old cabinets (white is in right now), and installing sleek light fixtures are all low-cost upgrades that will make your kitchen sparkle.

New appliances, which can run about $10,000 for a whole-kitchen replacement, are an easy way to add value. While the upfront cost might be hard to swallow, new stainless appliances make your kitchen more attractive to a wider range of buyers, says Ashley Oakes-Lazosky, a Realtor with Vegas Homes and Fine Estates in Las Vegas.

Granite or quartz countertops are also hot, but they can be pricey, depending on your kitchen layout.

“You need bids from professional remodelers to figure out how much new countertops will cost—and if it fits your budget and timetable for selling,” says Robert Criner, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders Remodelers and owner of Criner Remodeling in Newport News, VA.

A less pricey alternative is simply adding a clean, white ceramic tile backsplash to create visual appeal, Criner adds.

Upgrades to skip

Thinking about finishing an attic or basement? Adding a deck? Well, don’t. Those upgrades tend to be pricey, and buyers will likely prefer to remodel those areas to their own tastes.

Other areas to avoid doing a major renovation: bathrooms, bedrooms, and home offices, according the Remodeling report.

In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t renovate it!

7 FYI’s concerning VA loans!

No down payment

This is the singular, headline-garnering benefit of the program. Qualified Veterans can purchase up to $417,000 in most parts of the country without having to make a down payment. Buyers in more expensive parts of the country can go even higher. It’s tough to overstate just how significant this is in the current lending environment.

For example, let’s say you want to purchase a $200,000 home. For a conventional mortgage, the minimum down payment would be $10,000, or 5 percent of the purchase price. FHA loans require at least 3.5 percent down, which in this case is $7,000. Saving that kind of lump sum can be a tall order for the average military homebuyer. For some perspective, VA borrowers on average have just under $7,000 in assets.

The no-down-payment benefit helps Veterans get into homes without having to spend years scrimping and saving for a day that might never come.

Government guaranty

VA doesn’t actually make home loans — in all but a few cases. Instead, it provides a financial guaranty to private VA-approved lenders; basically a promise to repay a portion of the loan should the borrower default. That promise gives lenders a degree of confidence and allows them to extend financing to qualified Veterans without the need for a down payment.

It’s important to understand that VA’s fiscal guaranty doesn’t mean that eligible Veterans automatically get a home loan. Not every Veteran who’s eligible for a VA home loan will get one, because prospective borrowers still need to meet requirements set forth by both VA and approved lenders.

Credit requirements

While the VA guaranty breeds confidence, lenders are still on the hook for most of the loss if a Veteran defaults. That’s a big reason why lenders are able to introduce requirements beyond what VA needs to see to determine eligibility. A credit score minimum is probably the most common example of where these two roads diverge.

A credit score is essentially a representation of your ability and willingness to repay debt. Rather than cite a specific score, VA simply wants Veterans to be a “satisfactory credit risk” in order to utilize this program. But lenders go a step further and require that borrowers meet or exceed credit benchmarks. This type of additional requirement is known as an “overlay” and helps lenders better manage their risk.

Right now, most VA lenders are generally looking for a score of at least 620. That’s well below what Veterans will typically need to satisfy conventional and even FHA lenders.

No private mortgage insurance

Loan programs that require a down payment often come with an additional financial drain: mortgage insurance. Unless you can put down a hefty chunk of change (typically 20 percent of the purchase price), conventional borrowers will be on the hook for a monthly mortgage insurance payment until they’ve built sufficient equity.

FHA loans have an upfront mortgage insurance premium along with an annual fee that borrowers now pay for the entirety of the loan term.

VA loans have no mortgage insurance. Because of this benefit, the Veterans who secured VA financing last year will save $19 billion over the life of their loans.

Fighting off foreclosure

VA loans have had the lowest foreclosure rate of any loan product for nearly all of the last five years. That’s an incredible achievement considering nine in 10 come with no down payment.

The overall safety of the loan program is rooted in VA’s prudent underwriting requirements, its even-handed appraisal process, and its tremendous commitment to helping Veterans keep their homes.

The Loan Guaranty program has more than 150 loan specialists who work to educate Veterans about foreclosure avoidance and intervene with lenders and servicers. Their efforts have helped more than 300,000 Veterans who became delinquent on their mortgage to fight off foreclosure.

It’s not a one-time benefit

One of the most common misconceptions about this program is that it’s a one-time shot. That’s absolutely untrue. Once you earn this benefit, it’s yours for life. You also don’t necessarily need to repay your original loan in full in order to purchase again with a VA loan. What’s possible will depend in part on how much VA loan entitlement you have remaining.

VA loans are booming

VA loan volume has soared 380 percent since FY07. The program’s recent boom comes as Veterans have struggled to qualify for conventional and even FHA home financing in the wake of the housing market collapse. Veterans are flocking to the safety, security and significant benefits of VA loans.

The federal government created this program nearly 70 years ago to help level the playing field for Veterans and military families. Today, the VA Loan Guaranty program plays the same critical role in helping open the doors of homeownership to those who might otherwise struggle to secure it.

In fact, VA loans may now be more of a lifeline for military borrowers than at any time since World War II.

Military Relocation? Here’s how to find a home!

How to House-Hunt From Afar

You’ve got your orders to move, now what? It can be especially difficult to house-hunt when you’re living across the country (or in another country!). First of all, find a great local REALTOR who specializes in military relocation moves. Look for a Military Relocation Professional (MRP) certification. You can help your REALTOR help you by providing advance notice of any in-town trips, prioritizing your requirements, and speaking up about likes and dislikes. To save time in the real estate house-hunt process, have in hand a pre-approval letter from a lender as well as relevant tax documentation of work history. As legal requirements vary from location to location, ask your REALTOR what other information you may need before making a trip or making a commitment. We’re all in this together!

Some advice to those who inherit a mortgage!

Most homeowners have mortgages, and all homeowners die eventually. And, if a homeowner dies with an outstanding mortgage loan, the mortgage company still expects to be paid. Whether the balance owed will be due all at once or can be paid off over time depends on who inherits the home and the state where the deceased’s estate is being administered.

Who Will Owe?

If someone dies owing money on a conventional mortgage, the mortgage company must usually be formally notified of the death as part of the probate process.  However, if the deceased transferred his or her home to a living trust, such notice may be optional. (Sometimes the loan documents require it.)

If the home is owned by spouses and one of them dies, the mortgage company may allow the surviving spouse to make payments without interference since the loan had been extended to both parties.

If, however, the property is inherited by someone else, such as the deceased’s children, or if the home was just in the name of the deceased, the mortgage company may require the new owner to refinance the mortgage or pay the entire loan balance owed within a fairly short period of time. If the new owner is unable to meet its demand, the lender can foreclose on the home. (If the home was ultimately lost to foreclosure, that should not affect the credit of the “heir” because the heir was never personally obligated to pay the mortgage.) Flexibility on the part of the mortgage company in these circumstances is difficult to predict.

What Should I Do if I Can’t Pay?

Sometimes, people do not notify the mortgage company of a mortgage holder’s death and simply continue paying the loan. This scenario might happen, for example, if the heir to the home has bad credit, cannot afford to refinance or, alternately, pay the entire balance due, and yet wants to hold on to the house.

This strategy, however, could blow-up in the heir’s face should the mortgage company discover the ruse because the mortgage documents themselves will allow a foreclosure if the company is not notified of the death within a specific period of time.

All 50 states have laws that regulate mortgages at death. The very best option is to consult with an experienced estate attorney in the state where the home is located. That way, you can learn what specific options you may have.