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  • The Design Craze That’s Here to Stay


  • (NewsUSA ) – Shiplap – the wall treatment favored by popular home improvement shows – is filling Pinterest boards and continues to top the to-do lists of today’s savvy DIYers. Even high-end homebuilders are incorporating it into their upmarket designs. And when crafting a custom shiplap wall, the pros are choosing cypress because of its practicality and stunning good looks. Shiplap Defined Shiplap has long been a popular siding pattern for the exterior of homes. Nowadays, design pros are bringing it indoors as paneling to create a rustic, farmhouse vibe, or to highlight contemporary flair."Typically, what homeowners refer to as shiplap is simply run-of-the-mill boards nailed on a wall, with a small gap separating them," says Zack Rickman of the Southern Cypress Manufacturers Association,

    www.CypressInfo.org ."Actually, shiplap is a board pattern with L-shaped notches on the top and bottom edges. When installed, the boards overlap with a gap, presenting a more authentic, high-end look. And while the size of the gap is adjustable – depending on homeowner preference – nickel gap is arguably the most popular size with a six- or eight-inch shiplap board." Stylish Solutions When designing a room, homebuilder John Moleski, JM Designer Properties of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, says homeowners are drawn to shiplap because of its clean, crisp, modern lines, and the versatility it offers."Creative use of shiplap can enhance an entire room," Moleski says."Make an accent wall to contrast with surrounding walls. Install it horizontally, and the long lines of the boards will visually stretch a room. Or go vertical with it to add perceived height to the ceiling."While home improvement stores are stocked with a wide variety of wood paneling products, Moleski prefers working with cypress."Solid cypress and shiplap make a perfect match," he explains. "Not only is the wood local to my area and affordable, the wood’s intriguing grain pattern makes it remarkably beautiful."For budget-conscious homeowners, Moleski offers this cost-saving tip: "As an alternative to using select grade cypress, consider rough-sawn no.2 grade and install it with the smooth side facing out," he says. "It’ll achieve a similar look with some added character at a lower cost." Finishing Flexibility Fred Lewers, Palm West Home Builders in Palm Coast, Florida, says options abound when it comes to selecting a finish for a cypress shiplap wall."Cypress can be finished in a variety of ways," Lewers says. "Stain it to highlight its natural grain and texture, or paint it to add a pop of color. You also can use a whitewashing technique for a truly unique appearance. My preference is to leave it natural, and let the wood’s beauty shine."Regardless of your desired look, Rickman offers one piece of important finishing advice. "Look for an oil-based stain, or paint and primer system," he says."Water-based products sit on the surface and are prone to cracking and peeling. Oil-based products soak into the wood, providing superior protection and performance, especially in wet zones like bathrooms."Take it from the professionals: Shiplap is not just a design craze; it’s here to stay.For ideas on building a cypress shiplap wall, visit

    www.CypressInfo.org .

    Eco-Friendly, Health-Enhancing Home Design

    (NewsUSA ) – As the coronavirus pandemic rapidly turned the "new normal" household into hubs for all daily activities, Summer 2020 now means moving parents’ offices, kid’s camps, vacation destinations, and virtually everything under one roof.Although this dynamic could forge family bonds, it can also ignite the already heated stresses and struggles facing many Americans during this difficult time – making optimal home climate control a critical key to keeping their cool as temperatures heat up this season.Recent studies show how our increased togetherness can significantly disrupt domestic bliss. In fact, research suggests that people forced to live in quarantine conditions face a greater risk of anxiety, depression, anger, irritability, insomnia and post-traumatic stress symptoms.And, despite feeling close to their children during the pandemic, 61percent of parents say they have shouted, yelled, or screamed at them at least once over the past two weeks,

    according to a University of Michigan study . Further, married and engaged couples in quarantine are fighting more, with only 18 percent of surveyed couples reporting satisfaction in communication with their partner, according to a survey conducted by the publication, "The Knot and app Lasting."When temperatures – and tempers – rise, a dreaded "Family Thermostat War" can ensue. Following are some useful tips to help you save money on utility bills and keep your family cool.With home heating and cooling accounting for nearly half of home energy use and air conditioner energy expenses costing homeowners more than $11 billion a year, small steps can go a long way.* Ease Into Electric: According to Columbia University’s Earth Institute, electric systems are a solution to decarbonize home climate control. Among the most energy-efficient heating and cooling products, electricity-powered ductless mini-split systems, offered by companies including Fujitsu General America, can save as much as 25 percent on your energy bill. Mini-splits use thin copper tubing to pump refrigerant from an outdoor compressor directly into an indoor air-handling unit, where the air is quietly distributed to the interior space.* Get "Smart" About Climate Control: When it comes to smart home temperature control, there are Smart HVAC Systems and Smart Thermostats. Smart HVAC systems have built-in Internet capability and can be controlled directly without additional equipment. Smart Home Thermostats create "smart" systems by enabling remote temperature control via a mobile or Internet-connected device or voice-operated home automation system.* Voice Your Preference: Take control of your comfort. Most HVAC manufacturers offer apps that enable systems to be controlled from anywhere using a mobile device. Voice-control capability uses digital assistants, such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home, to verbally dictate home temperatures. Easily controlling the temperature more closely allows homeowners to be more comfortable and improve energy savings.* Find Your Efficient Comfort Zone: Many of us live in homes designed for bigger families, but have yet to downsize. If you find yourself using a fraction of your home on a regular basis, consider upgrading to a zoned, ducted, or ductless system. That will allow you to save energy heating and cooling spaces where you and your family don’t spend a lot of time. This will multiply savings as you’re not only needing less cooling, but you also gain from a more efficient system in the spaces you do still use.* Try Low-tech Fixes: Simple changes can have a big impact. Try to use heat-producing appliances – stoves, irons and dryers at night or early morning. Switch to LED light bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs – which consume 90 percent more power. Seal air leaks around windows, doors, and places where pipes and wires come through walls. And check existing caulking and weather-stripping for gaps or cracks.Achieving a sense of peaceful co-existence in your increasingly crowded, multi-functional home does not need to make your family members hot under the collar. If a new system is right for you, many Fujitsu systems with the Energy Star rating are more than twice as efficient as the minimum standard set by the government. To learn more or find a contractor near you, call 888-888-3424 or visit www.constantcomfort.com .

    Hispanic Homeowner Follows A Step-By-Step Plan to Buy A House

    (NewsUSA ) – A national housing survey found 88 percent of Hispanics felt homeownership was a good long-term investment, with 92 percent reporting they planned to be homeowners.Jocelyn Vasquez is living proof of those statistics.At a young age, her parents instilled the belief that if you owned a home, you had achieved the American dream. That dream of homeownership carried a lot of weight for her Hispanic parents, who had immigrated from El Salvador in 1977.Jocelyn turned the dream into an aggressive goal for herself:"My goal, as a U.S. citizen, was to graduate college and get a house before turning 30," says Jocelyn. "And, I wanted to do it on my own."To accomplish this, the Los Angeles, California resident made a roadmap for herself. She saved, attended college and kept her student loan debt as low as possible – all without burdening her parents.After she graduated, Jocelyn got a job as a loan officer assistant. It wasn’t until she had worked there for three years that she fully understood what was needed to qualify for a mortgage. The lightbulb went off when she realized, "I really could buy my own home someday."That was when she got serious. Because California real estate is so expensive, Jocelyn got a second job. She earned her real estate license and worked part-time as an agent, determined to save all her commission checks for a down payment.It took her three years to build her savings, pay off bills and get her debt-to-income (DTI) ratio low enough to qualify for a loan. (Many lenders don’t want a borrower’s debt to be greater than 45 percent of their gross income.) Once she achieved this, it was time to execute her plan.Jocelyn searched for a house that was less than $300,000 – not an easy task in the Greater Los Angeles Area. She looked at 16 homes before she found a 2-bed, 2 ? bath townhouse, with a 2-car garage for $285,000. Even though it was perfect for her, she took the weekend to think it over before making an offer. Unfortunately, her hesitancy cost her. By Sunday night, the seller had already accepted an offer. Jocelyn was devastated."I felt so discouraged, I didn’t know what to do," she admitted."After all my hard work and determination, I couldn’t believe I had missed out on this house. But I told myself what I tell all my buyers, ‘If it’s meant to be, it will be.’"It must have been meant to be: Five days later, Jocelyn got an alert on her phone informing her the house was back on the market – for $7,000 less. Jocelyn immediately called the seller’s agent, who told her the first buyer had backed out of the deal because his truck didn’t fit in the garage. This time, Jocelyn didn’t hesitate to offer the new asking price of $278,000.Jocelyn used conventional financing with private mortgage insurance, which allowed her to put down less than 20 percent. By saving diligently, she was able to make a five-percent down payment of $13,900. Her current monthly payment of $2,020 is exactly what she paid to rent her previous 1-bed, 1-bath, 640-sq.-ft apartment in downtown LA."This is the best investment I’ve ever made," says Jocelyn. "In the two years I’ve owned my home, its value has increased by almost 15 percent. It took a very long time, but I knew my plan would work eventually. And, I did it all on my own at age 28. My goal now is to help other Hispanic homebuyers realize the American dream of owning their own home."For more first-time homebuyer stories, visit readynest.com . 1 According to Fannie Mae’s 2018 National Housing Survey

    How to Buy A House Without Draining Your Savings

    (NewsUSA ) – Erin, who works at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, had been toying with the idea of buying her first home. She was 32 years old, and was very aware that the Durham housing market was heating up."I figured if I was going to buy a house, I’d better do it sooner rather than later because prices just kept going up," explains Erin.However, with only $7,000 in savings at the time, she felt she didn’t have enough money for a down payment. But the timing became a dilemma for her. Should she wait to save more money for a house that would probably cost more in a year? Or, use all her savings to buy a house now – at the risk of leaving herself with no funds for a rainy day or future expenses?The answer came when Erin visited the new home of a friend who had used a down payment assistance program to purchase her house. Her friend explained how down payment assistance programs give first-time homebuyers money to pay for a portion or all of their down payment, with some programs even helping with closing costs. Free money for eligible borrowers While there are more than 2,500 down payment assistance programs available throughout the country, Erin decided to apply for the same state-offered program her friend had used.The program, called North Carolina 1st Home Advantage Down Payment, makes homeownership more affordable for state residents. It offers down payment assistance of up to 5 percent for FHA, VA and USDA loans, and up to 3 percent for a conventional loan. And because Erin had a decent credit score and met the program’s income limit, she qualified.Erin received down payment help in the form of a zero-percent, deferred second mortgage. As long as she doesn’t sell or refinance the house for 15 years, her down payment assistance will be forgiven, meaning she won’t have to pay it back. Let the house hunting begin! Once Erin knew she was eligible for help with her down payment, she earnestly began her home search. She found a historical 3-bedroom, 1-bath home that was built in 1925. The price of the home was $152,000. She used conventional financing with private mortgage insurance because she was putting less than 20 percent down. With her 3-percent down payment assistance ($4,560), Erin successfully purchased her home in 2016."And, I didn’t have to use all my savings!" says Erin. Plus, she’s built up equity over the last two years due to home values going up.Aside from the financial perks of owning her own home, Erin enjoys other benefits. "I’ve got so much more space for the money than when I was renting," says Erin. "And I like being a permanent part of the neighborhood and getting to know my neighbors."For more homebuyer resources, visit readynest.com .To find down payment assistance programs in your area, visit

    downpaymentresource.com/

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