Down Town Amarillo

Down Town Amarillo
Amarillo

Monday, August 15, 2011

6 Furniture Arrangement Tips

Most homes are filled with furniture-arranging challenges. Follow these simple tips to turn your design dilemmas into successful arrangements.



1. Take Measurements


The first step in arranging a space is determining its size. Use a tape measure to get the dimensions of a room. Or, a quick tip: measure your foot and then walk heel to toe across the room. It's an easy way to estimate the basic size, and counting your footsteps will give you a rough measurement before you shop for furniture.
Always check the dimensions of the hallways, stairs and door widths leading to the space. This is the eternal challenge for the homeowner, being sure the entrance and egress of the room is large enough for potential purchases.



2. Estimate Volume


Every object has a height, depth and width. For added visual interest to any space, add varying furniture of varying characteristics. If you are going for a serene, unchallenging area for rest or recover, keep the furnishing volumes in a room similar.



3. It's All a Matter of Scale


The size of pieces relative to one another and the size of the space is their scale. Again, similarly scaled pieces are more serene when used together, but a nice balance of pieces creates a harmonious atmosphere, utilizing the differing physical qualities of height, depth and width throughout the room. When furnishings are out of scale, you'll notice that it just won't feel comfortable or right.



4. Create a Healthy Relationship


The relationship of items to one another to form a pleasing whole is termed balance. There are two forms of balance — symmetrical and asymmetrical.
Bilateral symmetry is like the human body: there are two of everything. Asymmetry refers to an imbalance, such as two candles of slightly different sizes next to each other. Symmetry is very restful, while asymmetry is used to add visual motion and excitement.



5. Paint Your Room


Look at your space as a painter looks at a work of art. There are visual tricks that painters use to create the appearance of depth in a space. You can use these tools, too.
The first trick painters use is "triangulation". A basic example of triangulation used in interior design is the placement of two end tables on either side of a sofa with a painting over the sofa. If you can imagine this scene, it is lower on the corners with the apex of the view just above mid-center at the top of the painting.
The second trick painters use is the creation of depth in artwork, which is a two-dimensional medium. Paintings often have a foreground, mid-ground, background and vanishing point. Stand at the threshold of your room. Place a chair, perhaps at an angle, in the foreground closest to you. The cocktail table will provide a mid-ground and the sofa with the wall behind it, the background. A window in the scene will give you your vanishing point. Or, the vanishing point can be within a work of art placed above the sofa.



6. Think Gestalt


All furniture arrangements have a certain gestalt, or "totality," a "form". Large rectangular spaces can be dealt with by dividing the "form" of the space into another form. A long narrow living space, for instance, can be split in two by creating zones of function. Say, one half is for the sofa, or the function of conversing, and the other half is for a dining set, or the function of dining.



This helps you take the bite out of large rectangular rooms by dividing them into squares by zones of function. Humans tend to feel more comfortable and less formal in square furniture arrangements versus rectangular.



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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Interior Paint Colors That Help Sell Your Home


Maggie Hernandez recalls a Realtor telling her sister-in-law that she had to get rid of many of her personal items in order to sell her home. But the realtor was even more adamant that the sister-in-law update the interior paint colors throughout her house. In fact 94 percent of all agents recommend a fresh coat of paint for their clients' homes.

And why is painting your house in order to sell your home so important? How about a major return on investment! According to HomeGain's Prepare to Sell 2009 national survey, the average price to paint interior walls is $500 to $750, but that increases a home price by an average of $1,500 to $2,000 -- which can be a 250 percent return on investment.


The Basic Rule of Thumb
It's necessary to remove all the personal touches you've made within your home in an effort to make the place as impersonal as possible when staging your home for sale. A neutral-colored palette, without all the clutter, helps potential buyers envision how their personal taste can be implemented into the house.

A bright red accent wall, or your teenager's black-walled bedroom, needs to be painted over in order to sell. "Beiges, warm beiges and yellows are great choices for wall color and making a space look more impersonal," says Maggie Hernandez, a seasoned home stager and realtor with RPI International, Inc. "Wallpaper is a deal-breaker, paint is your ally. Neutralize the color palette throughout the home and neutral doesn't mean white."

Karen Dembsky, president of Peachtree Home Staging LLC and Georgia's Real Estate Staging Association, as well as a Pro Stager of the Year nominee, has the first and most important piece of advice before even tackling the issue of color.

"A seller should always make sure that their paint has a fresh appeal, no dings, no marks. If there are any, it should be repainted or touched up because it gives the feeling of a well-maintained home," she said. "The color has to be livable and appealing, you want a color where the buyer will come in and say that it's not their first choice but they can live with it."


Repainting the Kitchen
Going room by room and making the correct decision on colors is vital and Dembsky gives her take on the best approach for each one. In the kitchen it's good to stay in the orange, red and yellow families. These work well because they're food related, but it's important to still make them soft, appealing and neutral, and keep them in the suggested food group colors. "In the kitchen, these colors will fly but keep these tips in mind to make them work well," she says.

Unique Hand Painted Tiles for your Bathroom

Repainting the Bathroom

In the bathroom paint must be light, because the room tends to be smaller, and a darker color would just make it more so. One way to infuse color into the room is through accessories like soaps or towels. But for the walls, keep it in the light yellows or tans. Perhaps you can pick up colors from the tile floors, but if the floors are hardwood then it's best to stick with neutral tones.


Repainting the Bedroom

In the bedroom it's also especially important to stay away from bright colors, since this room is viewed as a sanctuary, so choose something very neutral that will work with the flooring and also flow into the master bathroom. Bed and bath colors do not have to be the same but definitely must flow.


Repainting the Home Office

The only spot where warmer, richer colors are welcomed is in the home office, where cinnamon, dark brown or even dark blue are welcome -- these colors make the space an area in which to work and relax.


Repainting Other Areas of the Home

Other paint suggestions to help sell your home include salmon-hued paints - they make people's skin color look good. A very pale beige with a blue tone is very tranquil while a beige tone with a green tint that gives off energy and both are good choices for the living room.

And don't forget about the great outdoors and your garage. In the patio area it's not necessary to paint but do ensure that the decks and patios are pressure washed and fresh looking. For your basement and garage paint is also important. Paint the concrete floor and warm up these otherwise cold spaces with a warm neutral color like gold.


The Color to Avoid

Surprisingly, white is the color to avoid. Both Hernandez and Dembsky agree: When painting to help sell your house, the color white is not your ally. "The biggest mistake people make is painting their house entirely white inside thinking it's a neutral color. It's not, it's a bright color," Dembsky explains.

Did home staging help you sell your house? Got tips and advice to share? We want to hear from you! Add your comments in the box below.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

12 Quick and Easy Ways to Add Curb Appeal to Your Home

Curb Appeal…if someone asks you to describe it, what would you say? It can be hard to put into words, but when a homes got it, it's easy to spot.

Houses with curb appeal “force” you to drive by them when you are in the area. There you are, simply minding your own business on the way back from an errand or meeting, when suddenly an indescribable force takes control of your car, steering it two blocks over where you find yourself slooowly driving by “that” house…the one that makes your heart pitter-patter just a little bit faster. I call those “stalker” houses because they have a way of turning this semi-normal girl into a crazed house stalker with their curb-side charm and engaging personality.

One time I discovered a stalker home in the historic district of the town in which I live. On a Saturday afternoon, I drove by it several times, trying to capture a good photo of it for my blog, Between Naps on the Porch. I was having a hard time due to the trees and foliage that were partially blocking my view of it from the road. Later that same week, a friend and I were antiquing in the area. I drove by slowly once again so my friend could see the stalker house. We laughed envisioning the owners inside saying, "There she is again...that woman in the white SUV, still casing our house. Call the police!" ;)

Is there a house you love to stalk? Or, perhaps you are the fortunate owner of a stalker house. Do folks slooow down as they pass by your home, oohing and ahhing over its beautiful fa├žade and exterior good looks?

Or, alas, do you feel your home might be missing that ooh/aah factor? Let not your heart be troubled...here are 12 easy ways to bring your home up to stalker status in no time at all:


1.  Give your home a touch of romance with a climbing rose or flowering vine. It will create a warm and inviting entrance while adding charm to spare.


2.  Do you have a tree that's front and center in your yard, commanding attention? Make it a real feature by skirting it with a cute little bench. Just be sure to leave plenty of room all the way around for future growth.


3.  Consider adding a fabulous pergola. They look great on the front of a cottage, coastal or craftsman style home and will even offer a bit of sun relief for porch sitting time.


4.  Weathervanes exude the ooh, aah factor. If you have a peak on the front of your home, add a weathervane for a touch of whimsy.


5.  Topiaries, in spiral form, or really any form, add loads of style and appeal to a home.


6.  One of the fastest and least expensive ways to give your home's facade an instant facelift is by painting your front door a zippy color. Doors can be time consuming to paint, so here's a little trick I always like to use to avoid choosing the wrong color and having to repaint. Just paint a few sheets of inexpensive poster board with the paint you're considering. Then tape them to the door with masking tape and check the look from the yard or curb. You'll know pretty quickly if you've chosen the right color.


7.  Exterior lighting can really be awe inspiring, and it doesn't take a lot of lights to make a huge impact. No need to call an electrician if you just want the look without the expense. Most big box hardware stores sell outdoor lighting kits that don't require the skills of an electrician to install.


8.  Plant a flower garden along the front of your home with lots of long-blooming perennials. They'll come back year after year with their show stopping, car stalking beauty.


9.  A white picket fence...be still my heart. In my house stalking book, the only thing better than a white picket fence is...a white picket fence that's set back 3-4 feet with loads of blooming flowers planted along in front. Get ready; the neighbors are going to be talking and they will so be wishing they had thought of it first.


10.  Have you noticed all the great vinyls on the market these days? You can really dress up your front door quickly and inexpensively with these. They stick on firmly when applied as directed and add some instant panache to any front door.


11.  Window boxes are a fairly inexpensive and quick way to give your home some instant charm. The darling storybook shutters create delightful curb appeal for this home, as well.


12.  This would so be a stalker house for me if it were in my town. I just love it! But the real reason I included this charming home is the fabulous driveway. What a great way to give your home that little something extra.


So, tell me...do you have a home in your town that is totally stalker material?

Friday, July 29, 2011

8 simple tips for keeping cool without AC



Summer is here, and that means heat. While 84% of U.S. homes use air conditioners, we can save money by using them less; after all, the typical U.S. home spends 17% of its annual energy bill on cooling — about $375.

We can save energy, too, which on the hottest summer days can have immediate payoffs: avoiding an electricity blackout caused by an overloaded power grid and lessening the load of air pollution emitted by power plants. The Daily Green has tried to find the best ways to stay cool without using the air conditioner. These tips are also useful when the electricity does go out and you are without the use of your air conditioner.

We start with some home and yard improvements that can keep your home cooler now and in the years to come, then give you some easy, cheap tips you can use right now to cool off. And remember, even if you have and use an air conditioner, these tips can help you reduce your need for it, saving energy and money.

 

1. Install attic insulation


While attic fans may not help significantly to cool your home, attic insulation can help a lot. Insulation keeps cooler air in your home from escaping through the ceiling. If you have central air, also seal ducts — especially at vents and registers, where you could be losing up to 20% of your cooled air. Although the tax benefits aren't as generous as they were, you can still get a tax credit worth 10% of the materials cost, up to $500.

 

2. Plant trees strategically


Your house gets hot because the sun beats down on it on hot summer days. Let nature help reduce your energy bills: Plant deciduous trees on the east and west sides of your home. In the summer, their broad leaves will shade your house, while in the winter, bare branches won't stop the sun's warmth from reaching your walls. Also consider planting trees or shrubs to shade high-heat areas — air conditioning units that emit heat, for instance, and driveways and walkways that absorb it.

Of course, sitting under a shady tree on a hot summer day isn't a bad way to pass the time, wherever the tree stands.

All year awnings

 

3. Install awnings


Just as window shades and shrubbery work to shield your home from the sun's rays, awnings can save you money on energy bills by cutting down on the heat your house absorbs. This is a purchase to make if you like the look.

 

4. Close your windows


It may seem counterintuitive, but on hot summer days, opening the windows will often make your home warmer, not cooler. Open your windows only at night if the air outside is cooler than inside, and close them — along with blinds and shades — before the sun hits your house in the morning.

When night falls, open windows wide, particularly those oriented toward prevailing winds, so you can take advantage of cross ventilation. This will allow cool night air to circulate, and prevent a good deal of the sun's heat from reaching indoors. You may also put houseplants — particularly larger potted trees — in front of sunny windows to absorb some of the sun's energy.

 

5. Use fans strategically


The fact is, many people don't know how to use fans effectively. Here are three ways fans can help:

Ceiling fans can create a pleasant breeze to cool a room significantly. Be sure that you have the fan running in the right direction: In the summer, you should feel the breeze blowing down. And remember, ceiling fans cool people, not rooms, so turn it off when you leave the room. If you're buying new ceiling fans, make sure you buy Energy Star fans that use 50% less energy than comparable models — a choice that will pay off in the long run.

Stand-alone fans placed directly in front of you, it's no surprise, help keep you cool. Add a spritz bottle and you can dramatically change your temperature; as the water evaporates off your skin, your body sheds heat.

A do-it-yourself wind tunnel is the third option; if there's a cool breeze, particularly at night, set one fan facing in on the side of your home receiving the wind, and another facing out on the opposite end of the house. You'll maximize the cooling power of a natural breeze.

 

6. Eat cold meals


Just as drinking a nice cold cocktail cools your body, eating cold food helps keep your internal temperature lower on a hot day. Try a simple watermelon salad, for instance, or a cold soup. If you do cook, use the grill or the microwave, or else you'll heat up your kitchen from using the oven and stove. And remember, kitchen appliances aren't the only devices that give off heat; limiting your use of electronics and lighting will help keep your home cooler, too.

 

7. Shut off the lights


While modern lighting, such as compact fluorescents and LEDs, is more efficient, incandescent light bulbs can produce as much heat as they do light. Energy Star-rated light bulbs produce 75% less heat, so consider that when replacing bulbs. It's always a good idea to shut off lights to save energy, and on hot summer days, it can also affect the temperature of the room. The same goes for many electronics, so consider unplugging any device that isn't needed because many electronics remain hot even in standby mode.

 

8. Take a cold shower or go swimming


It may sound obvious, but it's worth saying: If you're hot, cool off your core temperature by immersing yourself in cold water. Unless there's 100% humidity, the evaporation of water off your skin will further cool you once you emerge from the water. For a shortcut, use water and ice cubes to keep your wrists cool. Because your blood vessels are so close to the skin there, you'll feel cooler by applying cold directly to your blood

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

7 Tips On Keeping Your Home Looking Nice When Selling.

Here’s some advice to help keep that budget down and get the home looking nice:
     
1.   Ask for help.

     

      Even if you don’t get a pro, a second set of eyes that haven’t lived at the property is helpful. They haven’t seen all the changes and improvements you’ve made over the years, and won’t miss the deterioration and disrepair that you experienced over years and didn’t really notice. A fresh perspective will tell you what to focus on.
    
2.  Make breathing room.

      Moving things around is free. (Although storing them elsewhere probably isn’t.) Rooms that have a lot of furniture may look cozy to you, but crowded to potential buyers. Spacing things out makes a room look bigger, and lets buyers mentally fill in the gaps with their own stuff.

3.  Be sparse, not Spartan.


      Perhaps worse than clutter is nothing at all. An empty room is not going to excite anyone, and it will draw more attention to the condition of the walls, floor, and ceiling. While a tidy decor shouldn’t be used to hide defects, it may save you the expense of redoing an unappealing paint job. Think of a pleasant-looking budget hotel room: There are simple decorations that catch your eye, but they’re spaced out. Flowers look nicer than random decorative objects but will require care.

4.  Minimize personal stuff.


      In the bathroom, clear the countertops and shower of excessive bottles, brushes, and cosmetics and use simple, color-coordinated towels. Take down personal photos, including off the fridge (magnets too). Pack up the knick-knacks scattered across the shelves and dressers. You don’t necessarily need to rent a storage unit for all this: You can keep it in the garage, as long as it’s tidy.

5.  Make things shine.
      Polish furniture. Clean windows, fixtures, doorknobs, fans, and lights. This is simple and cheap but makes a big visual difference.

6.   Think twice about big customizations.

      Replacing the carpet or repainting may seem logical, but not everybody has the same taste and the buyer may want to change things again anyway. You should consider a change if age or crazy style are issues. If you do, go for simple, neutral colors.

 7.  Create curb appeal.


Don’t focus on the inside and forget outside. First impressions matter. Clear out the tools and junk (especially on the patio and front porch), mow the lawn, and trim the hedges. Fresh mulch may spruce things up cheaply, and if you don’t want to paint the whole house, paint the trim, door, and shutters. (Your city may even offer enough free paint for the job; some give away limited quantities.) If it’s in the budget, the next step may be some pro landscaping or a simple garden

Friday, July 22, 2011

4 Tips When Buying An Air Conditioning Unit In Texas.


When it's summer, you may not notice the blazing heat – which likely means you have an air conditioner. And a good one, at that! For those who don't own an air conditioning unit and survive through the hot months with fans, ice packs and sleeping with your head resting in the open refrigerator door, maybe you should think about biting the bullet and buying one.

That's exactly what Stormy Naggy did. Naggy, 30, who recently moved to Huston, found herself needing to buy an air conditioner to help survive the notoriously steamy summers. "Everywhere else I've lived had already had them installed," she explains, adding that the refreshing blast of cool air was a necessity because "it's hot as hell." Naggy, a first-time air-conditioner buyer, had no real idea of what to buy and admits to only doing just a little research online. "I ended up buying one from a friend for $40," Naggy says, though it doesn't really work all that well in her apartment. "It doesn't cool the entire apartment; it just circulates the air."

Here's what an expert has to say about choosing the right AC unit to beat the heat and not make the same mistake as Naggy:


1. Calculate how many BTUs you need

Abby Buford, a member of the public relations team at Lowe's, warns that despite the temptation to just swing by the local hardware store and pick up whatever air conditioning unit is on sale, it actually takes a bit of planning and foresight to find the right air conditioner. She explains that the most important thing to consider when buying an air conditioner is to figure out the square footage of the room in which you plan to install the unit.

First, multiply the room's width by the room's length. Then use a chart from Energy Star to figure out the amount of British thermal units (BTUs) needed. Be sure to view the special notes about the number of windows, sunlight, and if the unit is to be used in a kitchen -- all of which affect the amount of BTUs needed. "BTUs are important because selecting the proper size is a critical component of the units performance," Buford explains.


2. Buy the unit with the listed amount of BTUs you need. No more, no less.

After determining the amount of BTUs you'll need, you can then pick out your air conditioner. The box should display its BTU output along with listing its other features, such as fan speeds, remotes, programs, etc. And just because a unit has larger BTU output than you need doesn't mean you'll reap the rewards of a cooler room. "An air conditioning unit that's too large will cycle on and off too frequently, using too much energy and causing unnecessary wear on the electrical components," says Buford. You'll also end up paying for a bigger unit not only at the store's cash register but also farther down the road, when you receive your first shockingly large electricity bill.


3. Buy an energy efficient air conditioner. Even if it costs more, you'll save money in the long run.

"The amount of money is generally based on the size of the unit," explains Buford, explaining that the bigger the AC unit, the more it will cost. "And the size will also determine the amount of money spent on utilities." It's advised to stick with an air conditioner that has met government restrictions as an energy efficient appliance and has been labeled with the Energy Star logo. "The majority of units are Energy Star, which can cost slightly more than a non-Energy Star unit," says Buford. But you'll more than likely make up the difference in price with your electric bill.


4. Read the instructions and don't forget to keep up on maintenance.

Before you install the unit, Buford recommends thoroughly reading the installation guide, as well as checking to make sure the window can hold it and that nothing blocks the airflow. She also suggests that you check the unit's filter regularly -- "A dirty filter can decrease the efficiency of the AC unit."

Following these tips and advice will hopefully find you basking in the cool, refreshing chill of your new air conditioner and help you enjoy your summer while at home. Naggy will have to go through the whole process of buying an air conditioner again next summer to get one that suits her needs best, but she's optimistic. "At least next time I'll know what to do," she says.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Department of Veterans Affairs guarantees home loans for vets that make it possible to buy a house with little or no money down. But some requirements of the loans intended to protect buyers also create hurdles for them.



VA Loans Come With Strict Terms

It's in almost everyone's interest for someone to buy up foreclosed homes. It's good for neighborhoods and banks, the economy benefits, and the buyer gets a home to live in.

But buying a foreclosed home or one in short sale can be difficult for veterans and those who want to use a VA loan. When veteran Eric Warner was looking for a home in Palmer, Alaska, a third of the homes were foreclosures.


"But there was no point in looking at them because they'd tell us up front, 'No, no VA loans,' " Warner says.
The VA and the Federal Housing Administration have long offered loan deals designed to help veterans and middle-class buyers. The VA guarantees up to 25 percent of the loan, which makes it possible for buyers like Warner to put no money down.

But the subprime crisis gave loans without a down payment a bad name. Now, vets are drawn to the VA because it offers the best deal in the market. But many sellers are reluctant to entertain offers from buyers with the loans because the VA requires certain conditions, including that the house be in great condition.

In today's market, with so many foreclosures for sale, this caveat often turns out to be a deal breaker. That was the case for most of the homes Warner looked at.

"There's very few times I've felt embarrassed for being a veteran," he says. "But finding that, in many ways, it was becoming a stumbling block to securing a good home for my family was sort of shocking and embarrassing."


VA: Terms Are In Vet's Best Interest


We have talked among ourselves about, 'Well, are we protecting somebody out of a home?'
Even in areas where foreclosures make up the bulk of what's on the market — like in southern Florida — real estate agents say clients have trouble trying to buy distressed homes with VA or FHA loans. They can't compete with investors offering all cash, or the process drags out so long that buyers just give up.

After five months, Warner finally did buy a house. But he says the drama didn't help his post-traumatic stress disorder, and he frequently considered giving up on the loan in the middle of the night: "Usually at about 1 o'clock in the morning after one or two hours of my wife crying and saying, 'Why is it this hard?' " he says.


The VA says it created the requirements to help vets and protect them from sinking money into a rundown house they later might not be able to afford. Bill White, assistant director of loan policy for the VA's Veterans Benefits Administration, says he has considered what it means to potential home buyers.

"We have talked among ourselves about, 'Well, are we protecting somebody out of a home?,' " White says.
White acknowledges that the VA has gotten some complaints about the unintended consequences of its rules. But, he says, the VA has no intention of changing its requirements.


Homes Need Families, Families Need Homes
 Emily Winslow isn't sure what to blame for having to endure half a year of bank approvals, inspections and paperwork. During those six months, Winslow moved her family five times — from a hotel to a friend's house, back to another hotel. Then, at nine months pregnant and still waiting, she frantically searched for a rental.

"No one could accommodate us, because our stipulations were so challenging," Winslow says. "Here we were, just waiting on the deal. And we have a month, maybe, until this goes through. 'I'm having a baby in two weeks, we've got to receive our household goods, we don't have a pet — can you please help us out?' And they said 'No, I'm sorry I can't.' "

The rental finally came through, but meanwhile their offer was still in limbo. The house they wanted didn't pass the VA's inspection because of a termite problem.

If common sense were used, we wouldn't have had to go through this.
"We were just so, so brokenhearted so many times because it appeared that the whole deal was going to fall through," she says.

In January, Winslow's family bought a house in Augusta, Ga. She says she still feels embittered.

"If common sense were used, we wouldn't have had to go through this," she says. "And it breaks my heart for other people that have to go through this, too, that you know, maybe there's a wife out there whose husband is deployed. And she's going through this by herself and she doesn't know what to do. It's just — my heart breaks for people like that."

Winslow says she understands the good intent behind the VA's rules, but she doesn't understand how there could be so many homes needing families, while so many families need homes.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

3 Ways to Save on Home Costs.

1. Negotiate on repairs and upkeep

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Price trend: Contractors, still facing a slumping real estate market, will strike a deal to get your business. In a May survey by consumer review website Angie's List, 81% of contractors say they'd negotiate labor costs; more than a quarter say they'd drop prices by more than 10%. Service providers like house cleaners and landscapers are cutting rates, too.


How to save: Get multiple price quotes. You'll have the most bargaining power if you can be flexible about the timing of your project. If a builder won't drop his price, see whether he'll upgrade you to higher-end fixtures, says Steve Gonzalez, author of "Before You Hire a Contractor: A Construction Guidebook for Consumers."




2. Trim the cost of borrowing


Price trend:: The average rate on a 30-year mortgage was 4.7% in May, down from 5.1% in February; it's expected to hit 5.8% next year, says the Mortgage Bankers Association. Some borrowers will pay more even sooner when jumbo loan limits expire this fall.


How to save: The recent rate dip has opened up another refinancing window. To save on closing costs, request a good-faith estimate before you apply. You can negotiate any fees the lender charges. You'll have the most wiggle room on adjustable-rate and jumbo mortgages.

Remodeling your home? Watch out for scams



3. Get a deal on furniture

Discount Furniture in Louisiana


Price trend: Higher shipping and materials costs are pushing furniture prices up, says Kimberly Causey, author of "The Furniture Factory Outlet Guide."


How to save: When sales slow in the summer, many mom-and-pop shops will make deals to move inventory, says Causey. Ask for 20% off, and don't settle for less than 10%. Gently used floor models can go for 25% off. Sign up for e-mails from furniture shopping sites like Decorati.com and OneKingsLane.com, where a $2,970 Noir brand sofa recently sold for $1,499.  To top of page