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Here are five fashionable looks that bring endless charm outside.

Cottage Garden

Cottage gardens are all about the hardscaping.
Meandering paths surrounded by flowers can be complemented with wrought iron furniture.

Tropical Paradise

Lush plantings and exotic patterns are the key to creating a backyard area that feels Caribbean cool.

Moroccan-Inspired

Mosaic tiles, suzani textiles and low seating are common characteristics of Moroccan-Inspired style.

Tuscan-Style

Olive trees, oversized potted plants and tiered water fountains are just a few of the reasons to love a Tuscan-style outdoor space.

Minimalist

Minimalist outdoor spaces are all about simplicity, clean lines and soft colors.
Add modern or contemporary furniture to create a streamlined feel.

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Improving your credit can take time, often many months. But there are some things you can do to raise your credit score quickly, even if only by a few points.

Pay Bills on Time
Payment history is the most important factor in FICO scores, accounting for up to 35 percent of a credit score. Paying your bills on time"regardless of whether it’s a credit card bill or a utility bill"can significantly improve your score.

Late payments stay on a credit report for seven years. The longer ago they happened, the less they affect credit scores. If a bill goes unpaid long enough, the debt can be sold to a collections agency and will get reported to credit bureaus.

Maintain Low Balances
Keeping a low balance lowers your credit utilization rate, which is the amount of credit youre using. Also called credit usage, it is the second most important factor in credit scores and accounts for 30 percent of a score.

Your credit usage is calculated by dividing the total of your balances by your total credit limits. For example, $3,740 in credit card debt divided by $16,000 in a total credit card limit equals 23 percent usage.

Paying off the balances in full each month should keep the credit utilization rate low, which should preferably be at no more than 30 percent on any one card or in total.

Increase Your Credit Limit
Another part of credit usage is how much your credit limit is. Increasing your limit in small increments by getting a new credit card can lower your credit utilization rate by giving you more money to use. You could also ask your current credit card provider to increase your credit limit. However, using that higher credit card limit could increase your credit usage, so you may want to use it rarely and pay it off in full each month.

Keep Credit Card Accounts Open
Age of credit history has a 15 percent impact on a credit score. Creditors and lenders like to see an average account age of more than five years. Keep your older accounts open to get over the five-year average. While this isnt a quick step to improving your credit score, its worth keeping in mind for the long-term health of your credit. If you want to see faster results, start by paying your bills on time, using less of your available credit and ask for a credit limit increase.

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Looking to add some of your own personal chicness to your bathroom? Below are a few ways you can add a little oomph to your powder room.

Climbing plants. Climbing vines indoors can add a jungly, naturalistic element to your space. Some of the coolest vines for interiors are ivy, heartleaf philodendron, jasmine and betel leaf plant.

Art. Don’t be afraid to add some unique art to your bathroom! A cool painting or sculpture can make a great focus piece.

Lighting options. From an interesting lighting fixture to a colored bulb or recessed lighting beneath, don’t be afraid to get funky with your lights.

Mirroring. Add an expressive picture frame to the edge of your vanity mirror, or create an entire mirrored wall to open up the space and add light.

Playful patterns. If you’re a fan of patterns, consider placing a bold pattern on your ceiling, floor or on one wall to make the space more interesting.

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Your shower should be one of the cleanest spots in your house, but due to the constant presence of moisture, this can be tough.

Try the following clean-shower hacks:

– Keep a spray bottle of water and vinegar in your shower and spritz after your daily rinse.

– A rubber squeegee"not unlike the ones you use to clean your car windshield"can help keep excess moisture from creating mold on your walls or shower door.

– After your shower, shake your curtain to get rid of excess moisture that can lead to mold.

– Every other week, throw your shower curtain in the wash with your towels, then hang it up to dry.

– If you have a built-in fan in your bathroom, use it! It’s a top trick for minimizing mold.

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Is your evening couch potato routine with your partner growing stale? It can be hard to find the energy to connect after a long day of work, but while watching television may be a good way to turn your brain off, it certainly doesn’t help with connecting. Below are several easy, inexpensive ways to connect with your loved one in the evening.

Play a board game. There’s nothing better than a little healthy competition to add some excitement to a relationship. If you’re not a board game fan, pick up some cards instead and let the fun begin.

Color together. Adult coloring books are all the rage right now. By setting your mind to a singular task, you often end up in a calm, almost meditative state. You may also find yourself engaging in deeper conversation as pressure is removed by the task at hand.

Tackle a creative project. If you and your partner enjoy working together, try doing something creative, like making vision boards with magazine cut-outs, planning a dream vacation you’ll never go on, or even diving into a puzzle.

Interested in housing and real estate tips? Feel free to contact me directly.

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Building good credit in college is one of the best financial moves students can make. Having good credit allows them to qualify for loans, rental applications, auto insurance, phone plans and can help them get a job.

Being responsible with credit is the best way to establish and improve a credit score. For college students without much credit history, there are small but important steps they can take to build up their score.

Obtaining a Student Credit Card

Some credit cards are marketed to students and others who dont have much borrowing history. Federal laws restrict issuing credit cards to anyone under 21 unless the applicant has the independent ability to repay debt or has an adult co-signer who accepts joint liability for the account.

Student credit cards may have low credit limits, such as $1,000, but they are otherwise indistinguishable from other credit cards. They may even have features such as cash back, no annual fees and budget management tools.

Using Credit Cards Wisely

After getting a credit card, students can start using it slowly and for occasional, small purchases that can be paid for on time. This will help build credit history and help them stay out of debt.

Students shouldn’t let a new card sit in their wallet. They must use it or risk the bank closing it due to inactivity. Putting small, recurring charges on it, such as a Netflix account or other website subscription, is an easy way to maintain use at a low cost.

Students shouldn’t make any big purchases unless its an emergency. Having low debt levels on their credit card will allow them to have enough of a credit line available in an emergency, and will increase the credit utilization part of their credit score.

Building Credit With Student Loans

One of the last things college students want is to default on their student loans, as this affects credit.

Borrowers should make at least the minimum payment each month and do it on time. They should borrow only what they need to go to school, instead of using the funds to buy a car or dine out. Once they graduate, they may want to consolidate their student loans to get a better interest rate.

On-time payments and paying off student loans will improve the credit score over time. If students run into problems making payments, they should contact their student loan provider and ask for forbearance. Federal student loans also offer Income-Driven Repayment plans that base payments on a borrowers income.

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A master suite can be a private oasis in your new homebut it can also factor into your homes value.

Typical features include a large bedroom area, spacious closets, a luxurious bathroom and other amenities.

But a master suite can be expensive and affect the homes appeal whenever you decide to sell.

Before buying a home, ask how the property compares to others in the area.

You might not mind if your suite is smaller or less elaborate now, but it could leave future buyers underwhelmed.

On the other hand, if your suite ends up too customized or showy, that could also limit the pool of future buyers.

A real estate agent can help you make the best decisions about your master suite keeping your homes resale value.

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No one wants to be reminded by their bank that using a credit card too much is a bad idea. Its a rule of thumb that everyone knows, but often avoids because a credit card is a major convenience. After all, who wants to always carry cash for everyday purchases?

However, it turns out that “revolvers”"people who carry a balance on their credit card each month with revolving credit"can save some money by being reminded every once in a while by their bank about the downsides of using credit cards.

Researchers at the Urban Institute found that email reminders from your bank or a banner ad on its website can become big enough annoyances to get credit card users to cut spending by 2 percent.

One message reminded credit card holders to use cash for a purchase of less than $20. A second message highlighted the fact that credit cards add 20 percent to the cost of something with revolving credit.

The first message led to an average savings of $104, and up to $173 for revolvers under age 40. The second message had less of an impact, saving people under 40 an average of $160.

There are other small ways consumers can remind themselves to use their credit card less. Budgeting apps or reminders set up on your phone can help you automate savings, for example, by automatically moving money into a savings or retirement account.

Your banks app or website may also allow you to set text or email alerts when your account balance is low. Your credit card may be able to do the same thing, sending you an email when youve spent over a certain amount on a purchase, or letting you know when youre near your credit limit.

The America Saves program sends periodic text messages to participants with savings tips and words of encouragement. Apps such as Hiatus and Trim help consumers stop automatic renewals on their credit cards that they may have forgotten about.

If you carry a revolving balance on your credit card, youre not alone.

Data from TransUnion, a consumer credit reporting agency, shows that about 133 million people have at least one credit card with a balance. The average credit card debt rose to $5,247 in the second quarter of this year, up from $5,197 in the first quarter.

To start lowering your credit card debt, make more than the minimum payment each month. Until you start using only cash for purchases of $20 or less, thats one of the best ways to tackle credit card debt.

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When we think about lottery winners, we likely imagine new cars and mega-mansions. But according to a recent survey conducted by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), most of us would actually use our lottery winnings to pay down our debt.

Among the 1,729 people who took part in this online poll, 87 percent indicated that they would use their winnings to become debt-free. Conversely, only 8 percent would use the funds to invest and grow savings before considering other priorities.

Since most of us will never win it big, the NFCC offers the following tips for paying down debt:

  • Rethink the approach toward debt management.When progress is slow on the road to being debt-free, consider increasing monthly payments to make faster progress. Additionally, consider prioritizing all extra payments to the accounts that are charging the highest interest rates. Even the slightest adjustments can make a big difference.
  • Pay yourself first.Contributing to a personal savings account and 401(k) before turning attention to other expenses will help keep important financial goals in sight, and will maintain steady progress toward reaching them.
  • Declutter the debt. If dealing with more than a few accounts, it helps to merge them into a single loan or credit card with one payment. This is called debt consolidation, which works best when resulting in lower interest and fees.

Source: www.NFCC.org

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Some first-time buyers are surprised by the full cost of homeownership.

To prepare your budget, consider these extra costs:

Closing costs typically total 2 – 5 percent of the purchase price and are in addition to down payments.

Homeowners insurance costs an average of around $1,000 a year, but prices vary. If in a flood or earthquake zone, youll need extra hazard insurance.

Property taxes could range from hundreds of dollars to thousands a year, and they often fluctuate.

All home maintenance becomes your responsibility, so save money for normal upkeep and emergency repairs.

Youll also need to pay for all utilities. If moving from a smaller apartment, expect the larger home to have higher bills.

Nevertheless, the pride of homeownership is priceless.

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Are you looking to add spice to your home cooking, but not heat? Here are five interesting flavors to try, while sparing your mouth from fire.

Cumin. With a mild, earthy flavor, cumin goes great in curries without adding any heat, and has been known to aid digestion and improve your immune system.

Coriander. Did you know coriander seeds come from the cilantro plant? This spice has a nutty, mild flavor and is great for creating rubs, adding to homemade pickles or putting in a curry.

Smoked paprika. While paprika is derived from the pepper plant, it doesn’t pack the heat that its cousin cayenne does. And this smoky version can add depth to chilis and stews without firing up your mouth.

Turmeric. This bright root has a bold flavor, but no spicy zing, and is wonderful for treating inflammation. You can add it to smoothies, soups, stir-fry’s and more.

Sumac. Popular in middle-eastern cuisine, this spice has a bold lemony flavor. Use it to flavor rice, sprinkle on top of cooked vegetables or add to salad dressings.

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A cash-back credit card can result in 5 percent or more back on your purchases, essentially giving you a small discount for everything you buy with a credit card.

But that perk can cost you some money in the long run, if youre not careful. Here are some mistakes to avoid with a cash-back credit card:

Spending to Earn More
Buying something for the sake of earning more cash back rewards is wasted money. If a purchase is unnecessary, then doing it just for the rewards is equally unnecessary.

Why spend money to earn a little money back? Most of the purchase price wont be returned anyway, with 1 percent cash back being the norm. Even at 5 percent in rewards, that leaves 95 percent of the purchase price you spent on something you dont want or need.

High Annual Fee
A cash-back reward is essentially a discount on a purchase. If youre going to buy gas and groceries anyway, you might as well get 5 percent cash back on them if you can. But take into account the cost of an annual fee, as it can take a few thousand dollars in spending per year to earn enough cash back to make up the cost difference between a fee and no-fee card.

If a cash-back credit card has an annual fee of $75, for example, and pays 5 percent cash back for grocery store purchases, it would require spending $1,500 to get that $75 fee back. Thats a lot of groceries to buy before getting money in your pocket.

Paying Interest
Your cash rewards will be useless if you dont pay off your balance in full each month or on time and incur interest. People who pay interest each month are often charged a higher interest rate on their cash-back card than on a credit card with no rewards. If you regularly carry a balance on your credit card, look for a card with the lowest interest rate instead of one with rewards.

Incurring Transaction Fees
Private retailers, government entities and public utilities sometimes charge a transaction fee to consumers who use a credit card. This fee can easily exceed the cash back youd get on a rewards card. Credit card companies dont allow many businesses to charge a fee for using a credit card, though the business cost can be passed on through higher prices or a minimum charge. Ask if theres a fee before you swipe.

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How medical debt and other collection items are tallied in a credit score is changing, potentially increasing the credit scores of millions of people.

Called the FICO 9, the new credit score changes how medical collections are treated from non-medical changes, such as credit cards. A medical debt will now damage a credit score less than paying a credit card bill on time, for example.

FICO 9 came out in 2014, but the improved credit scores could just now be coming to fruition for many consumers because it can take a few years for banks and other lenders to implement the new system.

The new FICO 9 score should give responsible borrowers better access to credit and lower rates on existing credit once the changes are accepted by the industry.

Part of the thinking behind the changes is that for many people facing medical debt collections, it isnt something they have a lot of control over. People get sick or are in an accident and cant control how high their medical bills are, and may not even know that their medical debt is in collections.

More than 64 million Americans have some kind of medical collection record on their credit reports, according to Experian, a credit bureau. Almost all medical debts are reported to credit bureaus by collection agencies.

The FICO score is the most widely used credit score in the country, and is used by companies selling mortgages, credit cards, personal loans and more.

Another change with FICO 9 is that older collection items will have less impact on a credit score. Other types of debt that are sold to a collection agency"such as an unpaid utility bill or phone bill, school loan or rent"can still be reported to a credit bureau, but older collections will have less impact on a credit score. If the collection item is paid back, the score will improve.

I hope you found this real estate information helpful. Please contact me for all your real estate needs today!

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