Make More Room in Your Kitchen

Family Life in the Kitchen

There are some ways to make even the smallest kitchen seem bigger and gain some awesome storage space you weren’t expecting. Try these tips as you start thinking about ways to make the kitchen you have the dream kitchen you want.

Before doing anything else….PURGE!

Grab a garbage bag and start throwing things away. Clean out your pantry, cabinets, freezer and refrigerator. Anything outdated including cereals, spices, canned goods and more can go. Old sponges, storage containers with no lids, expired meats, freezer burned soups and vegetables, and old leftovers all can be discarded. You’ll feel good about starting from scratch, and you will know what you have and what you need when you go to the store.

When you do go to the store, only buy what you need. If you’re a bulk shopper, store extra items in the garage or basement, but keep them out of the kitchen.

Hide your chairs. If you have an island or counter seating in your kitchen, buy a couple of low stools that you can push underneath and out of the way.

Put small appliances away. Toasters, mixers and other kitchen appliances are tools, not decorations. Put them in one of the larger cabinets until they are used again for meal prep.

Buy some cabinet shelving and dividers. You can purchase some inexpensive cabinet shelving for stackable pots and pans, serving dishes, vases and pitchers. It’s an easy fix to get some quick storage space back.

Get a smaller table. If you have a small dining nook, then you need a small table. You may even find one with folding parts so you can make it larger and smaller as needed.

Attach a sanitation rack to cabinet below the sink. These are inexpensive and easy to affix to the wall of the cabinet. Put your dish soap, sponges, and other frequently used cleaning products in it. They are easy to get to and off the sink.

Hang your plants. Get your houseplants off the counter by hanging them up or putting them on upper shelves.

A lot of families spend more time in their kitchens than any other rooms in their home. Make it a room you want to be in!

Lighten the Load: Some Tips for De-Cluttering Your Home

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De-Cluttering – It is both an art and a science. Making sure you keep what you need and really want, and finding a good home for things you don’t is harder than it sounds. If you are getting ready to move, it’s time to de-clutter. If you’re already in your home, it’s also time to de-clutter! Here are some simple tips to make this task a little easier.

Decide what is trash and what is treasure. If you have been saving a t-shirt from a fundraiser in 1994 and it no longer fits or smells like the gym, it’s trash. If you have a handwritten letter from your great grandmother, that is probably a treasure. This first step is hard because you have to determine what is important to you.

Determine what to do with what you’re getting rid of. You have a few choices – Donate items to a reputable donation center such as Goodwill, the Salvation Army or your favorite charity; sell items; give them to friends or family; or throw them away.

If you have valuable items and you’d like to sell them, you have a few options. You could bring everything out for a garage sale, or, you can list them online. Craigslist is the obvious choice for selling large items such as furniture or appliances that you don’t want to ship. Ebay or Craigslist can work for smaller items. A lot of people post items on Facebook, as well.

Go digital. If you have photos, home videos, or scrapbook items you want to store but want to take up less space, go digital. You can scan these items yourself or you can have them professionally scanned saving you hours but costing you some money.

Once you have gotten rid of things, you want to make sure you are always clutter free. Try these tips:

When you get something new, get rid of something old. One new blouse in, one item of clothing you never wear out. A new kitchen gadget in, an old kitchen gadget out.

Is there something you can’t decide if you will use again? Give it an “expiration date.” Mark your calendar and if you have not used that item by the expiration date, get rid of it.

Do you buy on impulse? Wait 48 hours before buying something. You may realize in 48 hours that you really don’t need it after all.

And get rid of some of these items. You really don’t need them:

  • The extra buttons that came with your new sweater. You know – the buttons you put in the drawer with the rest of the buttons.
  • Old t-shirts, gym towels and socks that you really will never wear to the gym again.
  • Holiday cards – Unless there is a sentimental value to these cards, you’re probably not going to read them again.
  • Old wall calendars.
  • Ticket stubs and receipts (that are not for tax purposes). Why are you keeping these anyway?
  • The magazines you are going to get to some day.
  • Invitations to events that have past; party favors
  • Recipes you tried but didn’t like.
  • Books that weren’t life changing and you’re not going to read again.
  • Storage containers that no longer have their lids.
  • Instructions for appliances you know how to use.
  • Old computer cords.
  • The packets of condiments you picked up at Chinese food restaurants and fast food restaurants.

Feel the difference when you lighten the load!

Holiday Home Safety Tips – Part II

Beautiful girl at Christmas eve

With so many things to do before you leave home during the holidays – whether you’ll be gone for a few hours, a whole day or a whole week – it’s easy to forget something. Here are some simple tips for staying safe in your home and while you are away this holiday season.

Watch your plugs when you decorate. Don’t plug too many things in a single outlet and never connect multiple extension cords. Use power strips where you need them and longer extension cords to reach long distances.

Watch those candles and fireplaces. Lit candles look lovely, but make sure you keep them far away from curtains and drapes and other things that can easily catch on fire. If you have kids or pets playing around the candles, be extra careful and use the flameless kinds. If you are burning wood in the fireplace, make sure the fire is out after each use. And now may be a good time to have someone come out and clean your chimney and make sure it’s in working order.

Keep your thermostat turned on and maybe even up a little higher when it’s cold outside, especially at night or if you go out of town. A little extra warmth will prevent your pipes from freezing. Some people even keep their faucets dripping just a little in the winter when they travel.

Keep dry plants, real trees and other plant décor wet. Wreaths made of dry plants may look lovely but they present unexpected fire hazards. Keep your tree well watered and your wreaths and dry plants moist with a little mist for an extra safety step.

And speaking of tree, put breakable ornaments out of reach of small children and pets. Bells, lights and other twinkling ornaments easily attract attention of kids. Keep them safe by keeping your breakables out of reach.

Welcome your guests – whether they are expected or unexpected – with a shoveled walk way and a little salt. You may see more foot traffic at your house during the holidays. A shoveled walk with a little salt sprinkled on it, keeps friends, neighbors, family and delivery people safe from slipping.

Use your ladder. Do you have to fix a burned out bulb or jiggle a jangle to make it work right? Use a ladder. Now is not the time to stand on a chair or a crate because it’s easier. Stay safe with a sturdy ladder.

Before you leave home, clean out all the stinky spots — the garbage disposal, dishwasher, refrigerator and coffee pot can all welcome you home with unpleasant surprises if you don’t empty them and wipe them out before you leave.

Set timers on your lights to give the appearance of being home, even when you’re not. You can set timers to turn lights on when it starts to get dark and go off either at bedtime or in the morning. Always leave a couple of lights on when you’re gone to make it look like your home and to keep burglars away. It’s easier to rob a home that is dark than one that is well lit.

Do one final walk around to make sure all the windows and doors are locked and your blinds are curtains are closed.

Always let your neighbors know you’re going to be gone so they can watch your house for strange activity and pick up newspapers and mail.

Protect your pets, too. Click here for pet safety tips for the holidays.

Click here to read more holiday home safety tips from Universal Lending.

What Can You Do with a Pumpkin Besides Carve It?

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Have you ever wondered what you can do with your pumpkin besides carve it, paint it or leave it on your porch until after Thanksgiving? Here are some fun uses for pumpkins that don’t require a lot of money or effort but do provide some unique fall decorations, healthy snacking choices and even beauty and wellness options.

Create clever fall decorations.

Carve the perfect fall vase. Cut off the top of your pumpkin, carve out the center and then place a container filled with water inside. You can choose a short pumpkin, tall pumpkin or something in between, based on the size of your glass container. Add your favorite bouquet. Or float fall candles.

Make pumpkin fries. Use a potato peeler to remove the pumpkin’s skin, then cut the squash into fry-like strips. Coat them with the spice of your choice, arrange on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and then bake at 350 F for about 30 minutes. Serve with a spicy aioli or another dipping sauce.

Create a fall candle holder. Take a small or miniature pumpkin and remove the stem. You can snap it off or cut it off, but make sure that the top is smooth or evenly indented. Place a votive candle where the stem used to be. You can leave the display as is, or add a glass hurricane shade over it. Try grouping several together or spreading them across the center of your table to create the illusion of a glowing runner.

Let your pumpkin pack a punch by doubling as a punch bowl. Get a short, round/fat pumpkin. Cut off the top and remove the pumpkin pulp from the inside. Place a short glass bowl into the pumpkin and pour in your favorite punch. Add a ladle and you’re good to go with this fall party table decoration.

Make a pumpkin drink dispenser. This item may be used during Halloween, or for other fall-themed events, such as Thanksgiving. This project may be of interest to those who enjoy arts and crafts, entertaining, or even those who want to undertake a fun project with other family members. Click here for easy instructions for this family craft.

Get spicy and creative with the seeds.

Stay classic and bake the seeds. Bake the seeds with your favorite spices at 350 F until they are toasted, about 20-30 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes. Make sure you rinse the seeds and let them dry before bake them. Or use them in granola. Add the seeds to oats, dried cranberries or other favorite snacks for a great granola blend.

Spice up your guacamole. Use pumpkin seeds to liven up your favorite guacamole. Bake the seeds with chili powder and mix them into your
traditional snack for a little healthy fall fun.

Add pumpkin to your health and beauty regime.

Scrub away with your pumpkin with a pumpkin exfoliant. For a full body treatment, you can use purée pumpkin and brown sugar (oatmeal is another great exfoliant). Put the exfoliant on a damp loofah or cloth and scrub onto skin in circular motions. This helps to drain toxins from the body. Finish with a nice warm shower.

Add shine to your hair. Restore shine and moisture to dry and damaged strands with a homemade pumpkin hair mask. Combine one cup of pumpkin (you can purée chunks in a food processor or use the canned version), a half cup of plain yogurt and two tablespoons of honey into a bowl. Mix well, and then apply to hair from root to tip. Cover head with a plastic shower cap and sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Wash treatment out and
follow up with a thorough cleansing using a shampoo and conditioner.

We’ve answered some questions about pumpkins. We’d be glad to answer questions about home mortgages, too.

Q&A about VA Loans

Military Father and Son

VA loans are $0 down payment mortgage options available to veterans, service members and select military spouses. VA loans are issued by private lenders and guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Since its inception in 1944, more than 22 million VA loans have helped veterans, active duty military personnel and their families purchase homes or refinance mortgages.

How does a VA loan compare to a traditional/conventional home mortgage? Read on.

What is the down payment?

  • VA loans: 0% down.
  • Conventional loans: Up to 20% down.

Do I have to pay mortgage insurance?

  • VA loans: VA loans do have a form of mortgage insurance, the VA Funding Fee. It is usually 3.3% and financed into the loan up front. If the borrower separated from the military with a qualifying disability, the funding fee is waived to 0%.
  • Conventional loans: If buyers do put down less than a 20% down payment, they must pay for private mortgage insurance.

Are the interest rates for VA loans competitive?

  • VA loans: The VA backing gives lenders a greater degree of safety, which means the interest rates can be more competitive than non-VA loans.
  • Conventional loans: Without government backing, banks take on more risk with conventional loans, which can result in less-competitive interest rates.

How easy is it to qualify for a VA loan?

  • VA loans: Because the loan is backed by the government, banks assume less risk and have less stringent qualification standards for VA loans, making them easier to obtain.
  • Conventional loans: Conventional loans require stricter qualification procedures that can put homeownership out of reach for some homebuyers.

Can I do a cash out refinance? 

  • VA loans: Borrowers can do a cash out refinance up to 100% of their home’s value.
  • Conventional loans: Borrowers with conventional loans must leave some equity in their home when doing a cash out refinance.

What else should I know about VA loans? 

  • VA eligibility is re-usable. A lot of people think they are only eligible for a VA loan one  time, but they are able to get VA loans more than one time.
  • You can have more than one VA loan at a time. It’s a myth that you can only have one at a time.
  • VA loans are assumable.

 You or someone you know may be the perfect fit for a VA loan. Contact a loan officer today to learn more about VA loans and other types of home loans that may be a good fit for you. 

 

Universal Lending is Pleased to Offer Non-QM Loan Programs

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We are pleased to offer the following Non-QM programs to make sure our business partners and our homebuyers have access to all the loan products they need. Take a look at some of what we can help you with. Questions? Please let us know. 

ITIN: Designed to help a borrower with a tax ID number but no social security number. Full or Alternative Doc accepted. LTV up to 85% and DTI up to 55%.

Land Loans: Allow for the purchase of raw land or vacant acreage.

ALT-A Premier: A great solution for the Agency Fallout borrower – Non-QM, Self-Employed or ITIN. Full or Alternative Doc accepted. LTV up to 85% and DTI up to 55%.

Bank Statement: Perfect fit for 1099 or self-employed borrowers who prefer to use the business or personal bank statements to document their income, rather than using tax returns.

Jumbo: Use this program for larger loans with balances up to $6 million for Non-QM, Self-Employed, ITIN, and previous credit borrowers. Full or Alternative Doc accepted. LTV up to 75%.

Near Miss Mortgage: A solution for a borrower with a previous bankruptcy, foreclosure, or short sale. No seasoning required on the credit event. Gift funds are accepted. Full or Alternative Doc accepted. LTV up to 80%.

Ready Asset Loan Program: For clients that have assets they own but do not necessarily want to use them to purchase a home. No income needed to qualify. The lender validates that the borrowers have enough assets to cover their debts through a 3rd party. LTV up to 85%.

Please let us know if we can offer any assistance with any of these Non-QM Loan Programs.

Summer Vacation Means Summer Jobs for Kids

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It’s summer vacation. Don’t let your kids spend the summer on the couch watching TV. Encourage them to earn their own money and start saving today for things they want tomorrow. Here are six jobs that kids as young as age 10 can cut their teeth on and become young entrepreneurs. Some of them may require a little help and coaching from adults, but that’s part of the experience. Help kids get started with marketing – make and hang signs, go door-to-door, put flyers in mailboxes, post on neighborhood websites, or create ads for neighborhood newsletters.

Do Yard Work
If your kids are old enough to use a lawn mower, then mowing lawns is a great job from spring through fall. The beauty of lawn mowing is that kids can push the mower from house to house! If kids aren’t ready for lawn mowing yet there are lots of other jobs: rake leaves, plant seeds, pull weeds, water flowers, etc.

Open a Lemonade Stand 
Younger kids may enjoy setting up a lemonade stand. If the weather is right (hot!) a lot of passersby on their way home from work or out walking the family dog may be ready for a refreshing beverage. Make sure the table is set up on a safe corner that has some foot and car traffic and they can be in business. If you really want to make some money, sell dog treats for the pups that go by with their owners.

The next three jobs may require some adult supervision when kids first begin them.

Walk Dogs
Be a dog walker. Dogs love going for walks and people who work all day love knowing their four-legged friends are getting outside. This job may be easier to get if the kids have pets of their own that neighbors see them taking care of and tending to. Dogs need to be walked all year round, no matter the weather or the time of year, so this job can grown into a continuous business. And good dog walkers never forget to clean up after their pooches!

Watch Someone’s House
When neighbors go away on a vacation, they often need someone to either feed their pet, water their flowers or pick up their mail while they’re away. A good house sitter is hard to find! It has to be someone trusted. But when your child becomes a favored house sitter, like dog walking, this job can become year-round business.

Be a Mother’s Helper
When kids are too young to babysit, they can get some training and earn some money by being a “mother’s helper.” A mother’s helper makes life easier for moms when they are at home. out a mom with her young kids while she’s also at home. They may play with the kids and keep them entertained while their mom does other chores around the house. They may even be asked to help with simple chores themselves.

The earlier kids start working, the faster their savings and their work ethic will grow. And the good things about these jobs? They are close to home and if your kids get one or two good clients, they will keep getting more business!