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If you’re a regular AT reader, you know how much we love Material, the direct-to-consumer brand that makes some of our favorite tools for the kitchen. The reBoard cutting board, in particular, is a must-have amongst editors and readers alike, but did you know that The reBoard (and its smaller sibling, The (mini) reBoard) aren’t the only cutting boards on Material‘s lineup? The Angled Board is an elegant upgrade that’s durable enough for the kitchen and sleek enough for the dining room. But unfortunately, like so many of Material’s super-popular products, it’s hard to find it in stock — until now. The Angled Board in Walnut is once again available for pre-order (while supplies last!).
Made from pure walnut wood, the board gets its name from the angled edge that makes it easy to keep all of your slices and dices together without (gasp!) scraping your knife across the surface. The dual-sided board is designed with versatility in mind; the smooth side is perfect for chopping ingredients and serving gorgeous charcuteries and boards, while the grooved side easily catches juices from meats and fruits.
At 17″ long, 12″ wide, and 1″ thick, it’s larger than your average cutting board — in the best way. “Beautifully designed, looks great on our counter,” writes one reviewer. “The surface of the board is hard, allowing the knife to chop cleanly and efficiently. I would recommend.”
Pre-order yours in Walnut now, and it will ship out in five to seven weeks. That gives you plenty of time to plan all of the ways to use it during holiday gatherings — and as holiday gifts. “This is such a beautiful board,” another reviewer recalls. “I got it as a gift for my friends and they are obsessed with it. The sturdiness and the sharp angle make it look really cool.”
If you can’t wait for Walnut — or prefer a darker hue — The Angled Board also comes in Carbon, which is made from white oak that’s been ebonized (naturally stained with long-lasting, food-safe dye). Both colors are made from FSC-certified, sustainably harvested wood grown in the USA. Carbon is available for shipping ASAP, and both include The Wood Oil to lengthen their lifespan.
Ready to add The Angled Board to your cart? Don’t wait too long. “I was on the waiting list for The Angled Board for a while, so when I was finally able to purchase one, I jumped on the chance and I was not disappointed,” recalls one reviewer. “The angle not only looks cool, but provides an easy way to transfer your cut items to another container. The size is great, giving you way more space to work with than most standard cutting boards. And then the looks … I can’t wait to have people over again so I can use this as a serving board as well.” Happy hosting!
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Feeling the itch to host again? Me too. Maybe that’s why this fall’s edition of The New York Tabletop Show felt more exciting than ever. More than 200 leading tableware brands exhibited their latest launches and upcoming product drops earlier this month, so I had to do a little trend scouting. Based on what I spotted, you can expect lots of texture, color, and dimension coming to the table, starting with this holiday season and looking forward to early 2022. Here’s what to consider if you’re looking for an on-trend tabletop refresh.
Sculptural nesting dishware
You’ve heard of nesting tables, but what about nesting tableware? Multiple designers showcased ball-shaped nesting tableware sets, which are great for small spaces and make for instant centerpieces. Villeroy & Boch introduced a new colorway for “La Boule” a spherical tableware set inspired by a 1970s design in their archives. The new color provides the perfect foil for their Memphis-inspired striped design on shelves right now. No matter the finish or pattern, these seven piece sets include a pair of serving bowls, pasta bowls, and dinner plates plus one round plate for serving.
Lenox expanded their popular Luna Nesting Dinnerware Set collection, each of which contains six microwave- and dishwasher-safe bowls and two plates. Now the sets will be available in more patterns than ever, including holiday designs and across the Kate Spade licensed collection. Mini sets are available, too; they’re the perfect size for dips, sauces, and spices and very giftable.
Rattan, wicker, cane, and other natural fibers have been all over home decor for a while. Now these textures are making their way out of the living room and bedroom and onto blown glass and ceramic items for the dining table. The Nachtmann Bossa Nova collection at the Riedel/Nachtmann showroom, pictured here, featured a basketweave motif on everything from vases and bowls to glasses and storage containers. These kinds of items add visual interest to a table without overwhelming it with too much pattern, if you’re more of a minimalist.
Resin has gone technicolor, with bowls, platters, servers, and pitchers being created in saturated jewel tones and vibrant brights. Many pieces have white swirls in them for a marbleized effect, too, as shown above in the Blue Pheasant showroom. Some sport a more color-blocked look, with rims, handles, and trims executed in poppy, contrast colors.
One of the most exciting forthcoming launches from the show was Villeroy & Boch’s Manufacture Rock Granit collection, shown here, which mimics the look of granite in porcelain product. You might be used to seeing natural stones cast into countertops, but get ready to see things that look like natural stones on your countertops and tables — as plates, bowls, vases, and platters. As part of the collection, the brand is also releasing elegantly-shaped matte black flatware, which looks as smooth as polished slate and rounds out the entire rock-inspired range.
Everything is coming up oversized, at least when it comes to tableware patterns. Several companies showed traditional looking china with this very contemporary twist: large-scale prints so big there’s barely any room for a repeat. Lenox dug into their archives to create the bold, colorful LX Remix collection, with the tidbit plates really honing in on this trend, while artist Hunt Slonem singled out some of his iconic bunnies, putting them on dinner plates and linens, solo and life-sized.
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Name:Celia, my partner Sean, and our son Cassius Location: Harlem — New York City, New York Size: 760 square feet Type of Home: Apartment Years lived in: 3 years, renting
Celia, who runs a YouTube channel and founded the decor shop Sticki Icki, has never lived anywhere else in NYC except Harlem, and says the compact 760-square-foot apartment she rents with her partner, Sean, is actually considered big by NYC standards. “The appliances are all a standard size (a big deal in NYC), there is a dishwasher, laundry in the building, and we have a terrace, which is fun in the spring and summer,” she explains. “We love the large open floor plan, but we’ve been able to distinguish the spaces by dividing each area with unique and bold styling elements. Even though there aren’t walls outside of the bedroom, there’s a design theme throughout, which is a mix of vintage, boho, and mid-century modern. A majority of our art features black artists, because it’s important to me that I uplift their work, and it speaks directly to me. This neighborhood has a lot of history, so we don’t have to travel far to witness it, or to grab a bite to eat within a diverse community.”
While Celia’s home is gorgeous to look at (and has come a LONG way from where it originally started, as this before and after post proves), it’s also a full of smart storage and small-space ideas she’s implemented, particularly after their son Cassius was born eight months ago. Nestled into a corner of their bedroom is the cutest nursery nook with a mini crib, and the couple purchased an IKEA PAX system (before, Sean kept his clothes in the entryway closet!).
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: I like to call my style “Mid-Century, Vintage, Eclectic.” I love the shapes of mid-century modern design. It’s clean and sharp and creates the perfect palette for layering in all my color and texture. I’m a huge fan of collecting things when I travel. My partner knows that’s a must! Adding cultural elements and art by Black artists makes my space feel like a representation of me and my history. I don’t have a huge budget but supporting small businesses and artists as much as I can feels good and makes my home feel like mine. Some would call it clutter, and say it’s too much, but I love things! I love to be surrounded by the things that tell the story of my life. From the neon bust of a ram I carried home from London, to the segregationist photos in the bathroom that speak to the history of America, and the now vintage head carving that hung in my childhood home, it’s me and I’m happy looking at it all. I’m going to be one of those old women with a house full of treasures and a story for it all.
Inspiration: I love looking at images on social media, and I have so many ideas of what my next home will look like, but for this space I didn’t have a true inspiration. It is truly just the result of me doing what I wanted with the budget I had.
Favorite Element: Before my son was born my favorite space in the apartment was the bathroom. I just love the wallpaper in there so much! It is the room where I took the biggest risk, and it made me so excited to get more adventurous. But since the arrival of Cassius the bedroom has become my favorite space. I’m not a natural early riser but that changes with a child. We spend some of our best moments in the morning in the bedroom as a family in the beautiful morning light. It makes sharing a room with an infant a little easier (sometimes lol).
Biggest Challenge: Like most New York City apartment dwellers, closet space was by far our biggest challenge. We added an IKEA PAX system to the bedroom and it changed the game!
Proudest DIY: I am most proud of the wallpaper we hung ourselves in the bathroom and the geometric mural we painted in the hall. Both spaces are so small and just begging for a bold treatment. They felt like great spaces to try out bold “trendy” options.
Biggest Indulgence: The couch on the balcony isn’t the most expensive thing in the apartment, but at the time it was a big purchase for us. My partner wanted to go with something cheaper and smaller but I wanted this couch so badly lol. It’s just from IKEA, so it’s not designer or anything, but I just love the look of it and my justification (to him at least lol) was that if we moved and needed something bigger we could just buy more of the same thing and expand it! It’s useful beyond this apartment!! But it’s so comfortable, easy to keep clean, and allows us to really enjoy our small outdoor space.
What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? My top three favorite things I’ve purchased for my apartment are our PAX system in the bedroom, heavy duty command strips, and our mini crib. Before the PAX, my partner Sean had to keep his clothes in the entryway closet, along with our shopping cart and mop bucket, and the rest stuffed into a few drawers in the bedroom. He was very gracious in letting me have the bedroom closet to myself. He kept his sweaters in a gym bag that our cat made her bed (we no longer have the cat), so generally his clothes were constantly covered in cat hair. The PAX allowed him to move all of his things into the bedroom, gave me a little extra space, and gave us doors to close when things got a little messy, instantly making our bedroom appear more tidy. Totally worth the spend.
The couch on the balcony was at the time a big purchase for us but it’s so comfortable, easy to keep clean and allows us to really enjoy our small outdoor space.
Our walls are made of concrete or cinder blocks, but what I do know is drilling into them is SO HARD. After a couple of hours long drilling sessions we turned to heavy duty command strips.
Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: Hydraulic lift up storage beds are THE best! You can fit so much under there and it’s so easy to lift the bed and access your things, especially when the walls are too close to slide larger things under the bed. If your couch sits on legs, that’s more storage! We store shipping boxes for our small business under our couch!
And the Elfa closet door storage system from The Container Store completely changed the way we used our linen/craft/broom closet. It holds SO MUCH STUFF. It’s absolutely amazing!
Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Do what feels good to you! Renters, don’t be afraid to make changes. YouTube is full of so many renter-friendly changes! Command strips, paint and knobs are all ways to make easy changes that can easily be changed back! And a space is never complete without a plant or two!
This house tour’s responses were edited for length and clarity.
Adrienne loves architecture, design, cats, science fiction and watching Star Trek. In the past 10 years she’s called home: a van, a former downtown store in small town Texas and a studio apartment rumored to have once been owned by Willie Nelson.
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Your favorite serial killer is back to do some more murdering while talking about said murdering (the guy loves to narrate, what can I say?). Netflix’s “You” — which recently released season three and was already renewed for season four — has a real monster as its protagonist in Joe Goldberg, and it’s impossible not to devour it once you start.
If you’ve already sped through Joe’s latest killing spree and are looking for more thrillers that share some similarities, here are five that might do the trick.
If getting into the mind of one twisted serial killer who loves to hear himself talk isn’t enough for you, here’s another: Dexter Morgan. The Showtime series “Dexter” isabout a forensic analyst killing bad guys who get away with their crimes. It ran for eight seasons and returns for a 10-episode limited run called “Dexter: New Blood” airing in Nov. 2021.
Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan star as DSU Stella Gibson and serial killer Peter Spector in this psychological thriller. Gibson (Anderson) is called in to investigate Spector who is on the loose in Belfast. But little does she know he’s hiding in plain sight as your typical suburban dad.
If you’re into the cat-and-mouse vibe mixed with a truly unhinged serial killer, you need to watch “Killing Eve.” (Plus, and it has Sandra Oh in it, who makes everything better.) Oh plays Eve Polastri, an MI5 agent who has studied female serial killers and is put on a team to track down one named Villanelle (Jodie Comer). It doesn’t take long for both Eve and Villanelle to become obsessed with one another, and what ensues is a ride.
In season two of “You,” Joe Goldberg meets his match, Love Quinn, and the two go from a predator-and-prey-type relationship to something much more complicated. For something similar, watch “Hannibal.” It’s a prequel story to the one you already know about Hannibal Lecter, this time focusing on his twisted, complex relationship with FBI agent Will Graham.
If you enjoy the serial killer genre but are ready for more of a true crime slant, HBO’s six-part docuseries “I’ll Be Gone In The Dark” is worth a watch. It follows the story of the late Michelle McNamara’s personal investigation into a serial killer and rapist from the ’70s and ’80s, now infamously known as the Golden State Killer, after beginning her own true crime blog. This, too, is a series much about obsession, but this time it’s about finding justice for the predator’s victims.
Slamming doors. Strange shadows. Mysterious whispers. You probably don’t need to call the “Ghostbusters” squad to know these classic signs of a haunted house. But what does it all mean and how can you live peacefully with the spirit roommates inhabiting your space?
There are several things to take into consideration when it comes to determining whether your home is haunted. According to Amanda Paulson, a paranormal investigator and the creator of Pretty Fn Spooky, a ghost can be many different things and simply just want to communicate. Whether you’re a spiritual skeptic or a believer, here’s what you need to know.
What does a “haunting” really mean?
Let’s first define what a ghost actually is — because they aren’t typically like the ones you know from “Amityville Horror” or sadly, “Casper the Friendly Ghost.” They’re typically more of a presence or energy that manifests in different areas, objects, or forms in your home.
“My personal definition of a ghost is a shadow of life perceived in a way that defies reality,” Paulson says. “A ghost can be the intelligent spirit of the deceased, persisting after death because of unfinished business, or it can be residual energy of the living or deceased, imprinted onto a location or object.”
According to Celtic understanding, the veil between the realities of the living and the dead grows thinner during the autumn months. Halloween is smack dab in the middle of the autumn equinox and the winter solstice, and it’s considered to be a potent time that signifies the cycle of life and death, as well as transformation. Celtic pagan legend has it that on Halloween night, spirits can cross over to the land of the living more easily than on any other night. So, if you’re feeling eerie energy or seem extra attuned to the creaks in your home lately, this may be why.
Before the shivers get down your spine, this doesn’t always indicate that you need to run away at the first chance you get. “I believe that most hauntings are good or neutral, actually,” Paulson says. “I think that bad hauntings are rare, but even in the case of a darker spirit, the living has more power than we give ourselves credit for.”
How to determine if your house is haunted:
So, what are some ways to tell that your house may have a paranormal presence? Paulson says there are a few indicators that can be telling, yet advises that many hauntings are misunderstood.
Learn the history of your home
Learning about the stories of those who lived in your home before you can help you identify any causes of possible paranormal activity.
Paulson recommends doing some digging on whether there’s a piece of history that might contribute to a ghost having unfinished business, such as a tragedy or event that left an imprint on the area. There are several ways you can go about researching the history of your home. For one, you can ask your real estate or leasing agent directly or search public property records through your city or county. You can also Google your home’s address and see if you can find any names of previous tenants or owners, paying attention to any obituaries. Or if you’re friendly with your neighbors, you can ask them to shed some light on your home’s past.
In addition to the physical history of your home, Paulson says to consider the objects in your space that have a history, too. “Many homes have antiques and mementos or are built with historic materials like stone or wood, and it is believed that energy can attach itself to these objects or materials,” she says. “A popular concept called the Stone Tape Theory speculates that hauntings are like tape recordings and that energy from past emotions or important events can be recorded onto objects.”
Pay attention to how you feel
Taking inventory of the feelings your home brings can help you sense any unrest. Paulson advises that you pay special attention to your reactions, your loved ones’ reactions, and even the reactions of your pets in different areas of your home.
“When your home is haunted, a feeling like you’re not alone washes over you,” Paulson says. “The hair on your arms stands up and you can sense static electricity in the air, like when you run across the carpet in your socks. Sometimes a hot sensation will be felt on the back of your neck, or you walk through a cold spot when there are no windows open.”
Maybe you have an inkling you’re being watched or notice that your cat meows at one specific corner but nothing appears to be there. Paulson notes that these are all reactions to take note of, yet they typically feel neutral rather than have a strong emotion attached. It might be time to sharpen your intuition skills to connect with your senses so you can have peace of mind in your space.
Check for “normal” paranormal activity
Sometimes, paranormal activity is easily explainable given the fact that your home has a history, and is simply present without being a disturbance.
Paulson encourages people who move into a new home to check for signs of “normal” paranormal activity like drafty windows, loose light bulbs, and wiring that emits a high electromagnetic field (EMF). “Some paranormal experts believe that ghosts will manipulate the EMF to help them manifest,” Paulson says, cautioning that a high EMF can also be a result of old or bad wiring. Have an electrician check out your space if you can, just to be on the safe side.
Look out for typical haunting signs:
Once you’ve ruled out normal paranormal activity in your home, Paulson says it may be time to come to terms with living in a haunted house. Remember, this doesn’t always mean that you’re doomed or that you should run.
“Most spirits only want to communicate, just like how we love to communicate with each other,” Paulson says. “We are not much different than those who have passed away and our recognition of the other side can help validate their experience. If we treat hauntings with respect and empathy, they will respect and empathize with us.”
Here are some signs to help you figure out if there’s unrest or a trapped spirit in your home.
Strange sounds: This can be knocking, footsteps, thumping, disembodied voices, doors creaking open, or anything else that sounds out of the ordinary.
Object movement: Swear you left your keys by the door but found them on the other side of the room instead? Spirits will sometimes move objects to indicate their presence.
Phantom smells: If you’re catching whiffs of strange odors, whether it’s perfume, tobacco, or unpleasant smells that don’t seem to have a source, this may mean there’s a ghost in your midst.
Cold spots: In horror movies, sometimes you’ll see people’s breath to indicate a haunting, but in real life, it’s not always as extreme. Feeling even subtle shifts or bursts of cold air can indicate a paranormal presence. This is believed to be because ghosts draw energy and take heat from the environment in which they’re present.
Seeing an apparition: The most obvious sign that a spirit is inhabiting your home is visually seeing something. This can manifest in many different ways to different people, from being a cryptic shadowy figure to something more resembling a person.
Paulson emphasizes that you should rely on your intuition to determine if you should communicate with the ghost or simply leave it alone.
“I trust my head, heart, and gut to help me determine what kind of ghost I’m meeting,” she says. “If something supernatural is making you feel uncomfortable or scared, you can ask that spirit to leave and take control of the energy in the space around you.”
What should I do if my house is haunted?
There are several telltale signs of a spirit in your home, and due to the autumnal energy, you may be picking up on these indicators even more. But ultimately, you have the power to decide whether something will haunt you or not.
“If you feel overwhelmed in your haunted house, communicate that,” Paulson says. “But remember the valuable history you could learn from letting your ghostly resident stay.”
If you’re feeling paranoid or sense negative energy, there are several measures you can take. This can include cleansing the energy in your home for a fresh start by trying a blessing spell with an intention in mind; tapping into your own cultural heritage and seeing if your ancestors relied on a certain cleansing ritual can be a great place to start.
If you decide the energy in your home is neutral or even friendly, you can experiment with communication if it so calls to you. Or, you may just come to terms with the fact that you have a roommate who sometimes likes to play pranks on you — and can’t we all use a little more company these days?
Julianne is a Chicago-based writer, Enneagram coach, and shameless homebody. She loves all things witchy, hygge, and empowering creatives to follow their career dreams. You can follow her on Instagram or explore her website for more resources.
Olivia Harvey is a freelance writer and award-winning scriptwriter from outside Boston, Massachusetts. She’s a big fan of scented candles, getting dressed up, and the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley. You can make sure she’s doing okay via Instagram and/or Twitter.
Create the perfect ambiance for your living room with a floor lamp that suits your style. Compared to overhead lighting, floor lamps offer a world of flexibility – they provide illumination right where you need it at the brightness level that makes you feel the most comfortable. This buying guide covers stylish floor lamps for ambient lighting, adjustable task lamps to brighten your reading chairs, and designer statement pieces sure to start conversations. We’ve scoured the web to find our favorite picks for every situation, each one available for sale online right now. There’s something here for everyone.
Organizing fun and meaningful family reunions can be challenging regardless of how many relatives you expect. The dining room is centre stage for most activities, especially when everyone stays for the weekend or the holidays. With everything happening with the pandemic, the dining room can bring the family close and create some sense of normalcy. That said, you might want to consider these easy ways to elevate your dining room décor for your next family reunion.
Define your dining with rugs
If you are going for an open plan reception, adding a rug will do a perfect job for your décor by defining the space. You can get creative by mixing patterns and textures with your furniture. It is easier for your chairs and tables to feel a bit lost. Yet, you can prevent this by placing a rug beneath them. You should know one simple trick – keep your rug a bit wider than your dining tables on all sides. A rug can likewise bring everything together by adding an extra comfort element, even if your space is carpeted. However, sizing is vital to get the best look for your space.
Choose the correct table width
Your table width is essential if you want to create the perfect table settings. Table décor, trays of food, candles, wine bottles and glassware are crucial pieces to keep conversations going across the table. You have to consider the size of your dining room when choosing your furniture, factoring in the number of people you intend to host. Going for a round table is practical if you have a small dining space and want everyone conversational around the table. However, an oval or rectangular table will work better if you want a space for, let’s say, eight people.
Find the right wall colours
A wild colour can easily elevate your dining décor and make your space feel more vibrant. Typically, dining space should have warm shades like dark green, blue or deep rust. You can likewise match your patterned walls with your furniture upholstery. However, you can add other colour elements elsewhere if you want a simple neutral wall colour. It could be a painting or other accessories like cushions or your carpet. New painting can offer a stronger foundation to express your creativity, so keep this in mind. By all means, select decors to flow with your walls.
Don’t forget your lighting
Light is an essential element in every part of your home, and your dining space is no exception. The lighting can either make or break the look and feel of your room. You can make your dining more memorable by using an elegant chandelier. This can instantly elevate your dining space and make it ready for any occasion. Chandeliers come in various sizes and shapes. You might want to consider installing a dimmer to adjust your brightness to suit every mood.
Add some extra cushions
Cushions on your chairs can offer the same comfort as the area rugs. Find seat covers that are comfortable enough and provide the right support for proper seating. The chances are you will be spending more time than usual around the dining table, so it would be best to make your seating as pleasantly comfortable as you can. You can use colours and styles that compliment your dining décor on guiding your cushion choice.
Go for a holiday setup
Family reunions don’t happen often, and if you are going to host one during the holidays, feel free to put your style on full display. The holidays are great times to show off and display your style to the fullest. Need some ideas? Consider hanging a garland over the top of your storage cabinet or around the window. Use table runners or tablecloths, decorate the table with available seasonal foliage for a festive feel and add candles to create atmosphere. If you’re celebrating during autumn, use colourful pumpkins as decor and match the theme to your food by serving in season menus. Look out for high quality European foods and pumpkin seed oil to add to your menu and recipes, including marinades, toppings, pasta, and salad dressings.
Consider adding a window seat
Natural light can be exceptionally comforting, particularly during the cold part of the year when people struggle with the winter blues. It can be helpful to create seating near your windows to allow maximum sunlight into your home when you can’t sit in your outdoors. The window seat arrangement isn’t only functional for your dining space but adds another layer of style.
Your dining room, like your kitchen, is the heart of your home. It is where you enjoy your pleasant meals and quality family time. As a result, it is just right to elevate your dining décor and make it more inviting for your next family reunion.
You’ve got your mind set on buying a home. Maybe you’re playing a long game, slowly but steadily building up that “down payment” savings fund. Or perhaps you’re hoping to be moved in and settled by the start of the new year. Wherever you are in your homebuying journey, experts say there are a number of steps you can take to gain solid financial footing and make the whole process a bit more seamless.
Consider this your homebuying roadmap, no matter if you’re aspiring to purchase your very own home in three years, one year, or three months.
If You’re Planning to Buy in 3 Years…
If you’re eyeing homeownership in the next few years, now is a great time to rein in any outstanding debt and start saving for a down payment. You’ve got a few years to get your financial situation in tip-top shape so use this time to build your financial fitness.
1. Get your debt under control.
Not only does carrying a debt load make it more difficult to save for a house, but it can also make it more difficult to qualify for a mortgage, says Andy Taylor, general manager of Credit Karma Home. Lenders take into account how much of your income is going towards paying debts, which is known as your debt-to-income ratio (DTI). Most lenders look for a DTI that is less than 43 percent.
“Your DTI is an important factor because it shows a lender that you won’t be using up all of your remaining cash on making your house payment,” he says. While you may not be able to pay off your entire car loan or your student loans in the next few years, you can reduce the balances and pay down your revolving debt, like those credit card balances. Not sure where to start? Try downloading a money-saving app like Digit, which rounds up dollars and cents on your payments and adds them to a savings account. Then, you can use this extra cash to chip away at your credit card balances.
Home prices, interest rates and, most likely, your own salary, will fluctuate over the next three years. But it’s smart to get a snapshot of how much you’ll be saving for a down payment and closing costs, says finance and savings expert Andrea Woroch. This way, you can start stashing away money with a goal in mind. Woroch recommends using online mortgage calculators to help you figure out how much you can afford on living expenses, layering in factors like taxes and HOA dues.
You may have heard that 20 percent is a gold standard for a down payment, but that’s a bit of a myth these days. While a larger down payment will help you avoid costs like private mortgage insurance, the minimum down payment for an FHA loan is just 3.5 percent, and conventional loans require as little as 3 to 5 percent down. (Here are the pros and cons of lower down payments). Closing costs, meanwhile, tend to be 2 to 5 percent of a home’s sale price, so remember to add a cushion to your budget to account for them.
3. Develop good credit habits.
Not only will excellent credit help you qualify for a mortgage, it will also help you nab a competitive interest rate. For most conventional loans, you’ll need a credit score of at least 620. You’ll get the best interest rates with a credit score of 760 or above. Paying all of your current bills on time will help build (or solidify) a healthy credit score, says Ron Wysocarski, a real estate broker based in Port Orange, Florida. Thirty-five percent of your credit score is based on your payment history. Some other good credit habits to establish include keeping your credit card utilization under 30 percent and checking your credit report regularly, disputing any errors.
With a few years to go before you want to buy your home, think about how you can increase your down payment savings and fast track your debt repayment, Woroch suggests. “There are plenty of flexible side hustles you can do from home and in your spare time even if you feel limited with your current schedule,” Woroch says. For instance, you can sign up as a tutor through VarsityTutors.com and help students for an hour here or there in the subject of your speciality via Zoom, or make extra money by pet sitting via sites like Rover.com. Here are more ideas for side hustles to help you increase your income.
5. Set up a high yield savings account.
Open up a specific high yield savings account for your home fund, says Brittney Castro, a certified financial planner with Mint. Since your goal is to purchase a home within three years, you don’t want to take on too much risk with your money by investing it, she says. It’s smart to reduce risk and accept the lower rate of return you get from a high yield savings account to ensure your principal will be there when it comes time to buy. To make sure you stay on track with your savings goals, you can set up automatic transfers.
If You’re Planning to Buy in 1 Year…
In addition to keeping your credit score in good shape and paying off existing debt, you can spend the next year learning about the homebuying process, which will grow your confidence and position you as a savvy buyer.
Hit the open house circuit! This is a low-commitment way of scoping out what the market is looking like and you can get an idea of the type of home you’d like to purchase, says Jennifer Gale, a real estate agent in Ontario, Canada. As you start to zero in on which features are important to you and what neighborhoods appeal to you, you’ll get to see what homes in your price range look like. Plus, you’ll meet some potential real estate agents, Gale says.
2. Research loan programs.
Now is the perfect time to get a solid understanding of the different types of loans that are available and start considering which ones might be a best fit for you, says Brandi Wright, a strategic real estate advisor at Real Estate Bees in Denver, Colorado.
For instance, Federal Housing Administration, or FHA, loans are popular among first-time homebuyers because of their lower credit score requirements. With FHA loans, you can have a score as low as 500 so long as you bring a 10 percent down payment to the closing table. Conventional loans (i.e. loans that aren’t federally backed) typically require a credit score of 620 or higher.
Beyond loan types, you’ll also want to get familiar with loan terms. Fixed-rate loans lock you into an interest rate for the duration of your loan (ah, predictability!) while adjustable-rate loans, which have fallen out of favor while interest rates are at record lows, offer low, introductory rates and then are subject to adjust on an annual basis. You’ll also need to decide if you want to take on a 30-year mortgage with lower monthly payments or a 15-year mortgage that’ll save you on interest over the life of your loan.
“Knowing which loan products work for you will help you interview loan officers and it’s extremely important to know that not all lenders are able to offer the same loan products, or they could be inexperienced with the loan product you are interested in,” Wright says.
3. Look for homebuyer grants.
Not only should you get familiar with loan products, but it’s a savvy move to start researching first-time homebuyer programs and down payment assistance programs, Wright suggests.
There are more than 2,500 down payment assistance programs available, according to The Mortgage Reports. Some are from non-profit organizations, but the majority of them come from state and area housing finance agencies. Most of these programs are aimed at helping first-time buyers, but if it’s been a few years since you’ve last owned a home, you may qualify.
4. Take a first-time homebuyer class.
When you’re starting to get serious about shopping for a home, taking a first-time homebuyer class can help arm you with some confidence. Topics covered include things like understanding your credit score and reports, how to get a mortgage, how to close on a mortgage loan, and how to avoid defaulting on your loan.
Classes typically cost under $200, though many are free. Here are four helpful courses for first-time buyers.
5. Interview local agents and lenders.
Assembling a savvy team of real estate professionals is especially important in this unprecedented market. While it’s nice to hire your friend or a former classmate, remember that buying a home is likely the biggest financial decision of your life, Wright says. With that in mind, you should look to hire an agent or lender who has a proven track record in your market and is knowledgeable and passionate, she says.
If You’re Planning to Buy in 3 Months…
During these next few months, you want to keep your financial situation stable. This means you shouldn’t take out a new car loan or max out your credit card, because it could jeopardize your ability to close on a mortgage. Ahead, find a few more homebuying tips for the home stretch.
1. Gather your documents.
The mortgage application process requires a lot of documentation, and requests for things like bank statements or tax returns will come at you quickly. To help expedite this process, put together a binder of important documents, suggests Alex Leduc, principal mortgage broker at Perch, a Canadian digital homebuying platform. Here are a few of his suggestions:
Also, if a family member or a friend is giving you a financial gift to help shore up your down payment, you’ll want to have a gift letter on hand that states the money is, indeed, a gift. Lenders want to ensure the money isn’t an informal loan that you’ll need to pay back, potentially putting pressure on your budget.
2. Get prequalified for a mortgage.
Now is the time to get prequalified for a home mortgage loan, says Brittney Castro, a certified financial planner with Mint. Mortgage rate locks typically last from 30 to 60 days, though some can last to 120 days or more, she says.
“It’s important to check with your lender as some will offer a free rate lock for a specified period,” Castro says.
3. Sign up for foreclosure listings.
Because of the inventory shortage, some first-time buyers are having luck finding homes before they hit the market. Foreclosures may not pop up on typical listings sites, but you can sign up for these through special feeds, Woroch says. You can find a list of sites to track foreclosures here, Woroch says. A real estate agent can also set up a foreclosure home alert that sends you emails directly about new properties available that meet your criteria.
“In the end, you may be able to get a deal on a foreclosure, put the money into making upgrades and still end up spending less than if you bought a brand new or recently renovated home,” she says.
4. Nail down your needs vs. wants.
There’s an informal rule in real estate that if a home checks off 85 percent of what you’re looking for in a property, you should put in an offer. It also helps to determine your needs vs. wants when looking for properties. For instance, if you and a partner are remote workers, a home office may be a top priority. But don’t rule out an otherwise great home because it doesn’t have, say, granite countertops, Bridges says.
5. Have an emergency savings fund built up.
You don’t want to wipe out your savings account when buying a house, cautions Ralph DiBugnara, president of Home Qualified, a real estate resource site. No matter how much you plan, there will likely be unforeseen expenses that pop up, he says. Many people will buy a home and then use credit cards to buy furniture, but those interest rates can be up to 10 times as much as a mortgage interest rate, he cautions.
Bookmark these checklists for your homebuying journey — and happy house-hunting!
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