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HOME & GARDEN

How to Throw an Epic Housewarming Party

When it comes to getting your home financed with a VA loan, there are a lot of moving parts. But before the process can be set in motion, you need to get your VA Certificate of Eligibility (COE).

So, how do you get your VA Certificate of Eligibility (COE)? Buckle up and let’s find out (or don’t buckle up, it’s pretty straightforward).

You bought a new house, now it’s time to show it off. Here are 8 tips for hosting a housewarming party like a pro.

Even though the ink has dried on your closing documents and the dust has settled from the moving trucks, you might feel that there is still one final step to becoming a homeowner. Cue the housewarming party.

Hosting your friends and family in your brand-new space can help make your house feel like a home. Best of all? It doesn’t have to be stressful. The moving process is hectic enough, so let your housewarming party be whatever you want it to be. Not sure how to get started on planning a Gatsby-level soiree or an intimate gathering? Here are eight foolproof tips for throwing an epic housewarming party that’ll have your friends and neighbors asking, “When can we come back?”

Patience is a virtue

You know it’s coming. As soon as you tell your friends and family about your new house on social media, someone is undoubtedly going to ask about the housewarming party. The trick here is to not act as soon as possible. Give yourself some time to enjoy your home on your own before you invite everyone over. It’s YOUR space! Wait until you’re all moved in and your place is in reasonable shape before you start planning.

Between hanging the curtains and implementing measures to reduce traffic noise in your new backyard to create the perfect party oasis, it could take weeks, or even months, before you feel comfortable enough to have people over. Operate on your time, not anyone else’s.

Give a heads up

Once you feel like your house is ready to be “warmed,” it’s time to start planning. Housewarming parties are typically more intimate gatherings with close friends and family, so don’t feel pressure to tell the world about it. Send some emails, or better yet, create a Facebook group so you can keep track of who you’re inviting and who all is coming for space, food, and drink purposes.

It’s also a good idea to let your neighbors know what’s happening, especially if your homes are in close proximity to each other. You could even extend an invitation to them if you’re comfortable with it. The more (gifts and food), the merrier!

Theme-work makes the dream work

If you want to go the extra mile and make sure your party is a true success, you can’t go wrong with adding a theme to the mix. So, what are some good theme ideas? If you’re planning a fall housewarming party, it’s only natural that you go with a Halloween or Friendsgiving theme. Waiting for the winter? Secret Santa or other gift exchange parties are always solid choices. You could play into an “Around the World” theme and tell your friends to bring dishes from different countries, which provides a fun theme and food for you and your guests.

Any theme that you think your guests will enjoy, and won’t cost an arm and a leg to decorate for, is probably a good idea. Start brainstorming! And remember to have fun with it.

Have a seat

Have you ever been to a party where there aren’t enough places to sit? No fun, right? Don’t let that be your party, especially if you’re planning activities where you want everyone to participate. Nobody wants to be the person standing on the outside edge of the circle where everyone is sitting. The sofa is prime real estate, yes, but having some bar stools, floor pillows, or foldable chairs on hand can save your guests some awkwardness (and joint pain).

Want to take seating a step further? Deck out your deck (if you have one), with comfortable lounge furniture. That way, you can all enjoy the weather and take in the neighborhood just as much as your new home.

There will be refreshments

We spoke previously about the possibility of a housewarming potluck, but if that’s not your thing, it’s still a good idea to at least provide some snacks and drinks for your guests. There’s no need to prepare a royal feast here. You can just order some pizza or other finger foods that can be kept at room temperature. Fruit, cheese platters, and baked goods also work well.

As for beverages, you might consider serving a signature cocktail or “mocktail” to help yourself from having to purchase too much variety at your expensive. You can also let your guests know that they can bring any additional alcoholic drinks they’d like, such as wine and beer.

Welcome to my crib

As much as we’re sure your friends love you, you’re not the only reason they showed up to the party. They’ll likely want to check out your new place. So this is where you show off your best MTV Cribs audition and give your guests what they’ve been waiting for: the grand tour.

Pro tip: You’ll probably want to wait until all or most of your guests have arrived to prevent giving multiple tours. But if you’re in the zone and feeling extra tour guide-y, why not?

Let the games begin

There are plenty of ways to entertain guests at a housewarming party, but having a central game or activity is probably your best bet for full engagement. You’ll want to pick games that include everyone, and it’s a plus if you can relate it to your theme or your house.

Think Home Scavenger Hunt or Grand Tour Memory. But there’s nothing wrong with just playing some good old-fashioned party games like Pictionary, Uno, or Two Truths and a Lie. You know your friends better than we do, so whatever you feel is your best for keeping them entertained will work just fine.

Relax

Housewarming parties should be low-pressure. Essentially, you’re inviting a group of people who like and care about you over to hang out and explore your new digs. It doesn’t have to be anything more than that. Sure you’ll want to put your best foot forward and make sure your guests have a good time, but if you prepare accordingly, that will take care of itself.

So, our last bit of advice to you is to just relax and enjoy your own party. If the host is having fun, there’s a great chance everyone else is too.

Give yourself some time to enjoy your home on your own before you invite everyone over. It’s YOUR space! Wait until you’re all moved in and your place is in reasonable shape before you start planning.

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HOME & GARDEN

Tips for Overcoming Empty Nest Syndrome

Fall is the season of change. If your kid just left the nest for college or the next step in their career, this might be a strange time of readjustment in your household. Even if you still have other kids at home, it’s a shift in the family dynamic that can take some getting used to. Right about now, empty nest syndrome may be kicking in. So, what can you do about it?

5 tips for navigating empty nest syndrome

  • Take up a new hobby
  • Reconnect with your social circle
  • Tackle projects around the house
  • Make plans for the future
  • Practice self-care

Before we dive deeper into this list, let’s nail down what empty nest syndrome is.

What exactly is empty nest syndrome?

For the past 18 years, you’ve watched your kid grow. This is your baby. Goodbyes are already tough—now combine that with your home feeling emptier and it’s an even stronger emotion.

Psychology Today said it best: “Empty nest syndrome is not a clinical diagnosis, but rather describes a transition period in which many people experience feelings of loneliness or loss. While many parents encourage their children to become independent adults, the experience of sending children off into the world can be a painful one.”

You’ll always be their parent, but that role looks different when they become independent young adults. This means navigating just how involved you should be in their life. How often do you check in with them? Do you wait for them to call you first? How many phone calls and texts is too many? You’ll have to ask yourself these questions and decide what works best for your relationship with your adult children.

While your kid is off becoming a person, this is also a period of learning more about yourself. Believe it or not, you’ve changed a lot since before you became a parent. Remember all those times you complained that you couldn’t get five minutes to yourself? Well, now you’ve got time! What will you do with it? After all that parenting, you may just want to enjoy the chance to do nothing. We support it.

Ways to cope with empty nest syndrome

Admit what you’re feeling—don’t try to minimize or ignore it, but give your kid space. They’ll have a much harder time learning to make their own decisions if you’re constantly checking up on them, doing everything for them, and asking them if they need anything. You mean well, but even good intentions can have adverse effects. Give them the tools they need to make mistakes on their own while they still have your safety net to fall back on when they need it. And as for you, try these five tactics to make this transition a smooth one.

Take up a new hobby

So many new hobbies have cropped up since you became a parent, and now you have time to try them! From ceramics class to bodybuilding, the world is your oyster. And the best part about hobbies? You don’t have to be good at them. It’s all about trying something new and embracing the process.

Reconnect with your social circle

It can be a challenge to juggle your kid’s social life and your own. But with an empty nest, you no longer have to balance the two. From spending more time with the people you’ve always wished you saw more of to making new connections, stronger friendships are one of the best upsides to your kid’s independence.

Tackle projects around the house

Sometimes, kids are why we can’t have nice things. With your space serving different functions in their absence, now could be a great time to tackle those projects you’ve been wanting to do around the house. Need some inspo? We thought you’d never ask!

Make plans for the future

Whether it’s a trip you’ve always wanted to take or an activity you’ve always wanted to try, one of the best ways to ease your nostalgia is to make plans for the future. Instead of getting hung up on the way things used to be, give yourself things to look forward to. The next time you see your kids, you’ll both have exciting new experiences to share.

Practice self-care

When you’re parenting full-time, your kid is your priority. Now that they’re out in the world learning how to take care of themselves, you’ve got more opportunities to take care of yourself, too. Self-care looks different for everyone, and it doesn’t have to involve massive lifestyle changes. Indulging in a pour-over coffee setup that you didn’t have time for in the morning rush to school? That’s self-care. Going to bed early because you’re not waiting up to make sure your kid gets home safe? That’s self-care. Figure out what you enjoy, and enjoy it. Simple as that.

What if I don’t have empty nest syndrome?

There’s nothing wrong with feeling happy about your empty nest. Parenting is hard work. That doesn’t go away when your kid leaves the house, so it’s completely valid to embrace and enjoy the change of pace while you can. They’ll be home for Thanksgiving before you know it, anyway.

Your kid will be home for the holidays before you know it. In the meantime, try our tips for navigating empty nest syndrome.

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HOME & GARDEN

How to Reduce Traffic Noise in Your Backyard

Nothing says serenity like the shrill of sirens, blaring of horns, and jarring cacophony of traffic. Your backyard should be a place to get away from it all. But, if you live in a busy area, peace and quiet can be hard to come by. To make it easier, we’ve rounded up six ways to reduce traffic noise in your backyard. Not to go all science geek on you, but it ultimately comes down to creating sound barriers between you and the offending source.

6 Ways to Reduce Traffic Noise in Your Backyard

  • Plant hedges and vegetation
  • Install a deck
  • Build a privacy wall
  • Install an acoustic fence
  • Add water features
  • Build a shed

Pro Tip: The right additions for you may depend on the architecture style of your home. Learn more about the most popular house styles and how to identify yours with our quick guide.

1. Plant hedges and vegetation

One of the best (and most eco-friendly) ways to reduce traffic noise in your backyard while complying with city building codes is by planting hedges and additional vegetation. Hedges aren’t commonly subject to height limitations and can provide a great sound barrier between your yard and busy streets when planned correctly. Not only will hedges and trees reduce noise, but they’re also an excellent technique to give your backyard some more privacy. We know the prospect of new plants is always exciting, but be sure to talk to a landscaper about choosing the right greenery for your situation, space, and climate before you start planting.

2. Install a deck

Aside from vegetation, there are some other aspects of landscape design that can help you reduce traffic noise in your backyard. It’ll take some time, money, and effort, but building a deck can go a long way in reducing the traffic noise you’re dealing with. Building a deck is also a great way to build equity and increase your home’s value.

3. Build a privacy wall

There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned brick wall to keep out unwanted traffic noise (and nosy neighbors). Brick walls give you a lot of freedom when it comes to where and how high you want to build, plus they’re the perfect density for blocking vibrations and don’t have gaps for sound to leak through. But while brick walls can reduce unwanted traffic noise by up to 50%, they’re also costly, take a lot of time and effort to install, and aren’t always the most aesthetically pleasing. If you’re in a neighborhood with height restrictions and regulations on what you can build in your backyard, you may want to opt for something a little less conspicuous.

4. Install an acoustic fence

Enter the acoustic fence. Acoustic fences have the same noise-blocking ability as brick walls at almost half the price. Not to mention, they can be much easier on the eyes and are available in many different styles and colors. They’re easy to install and will blend right in any neighborhood you live in. You can’t go as high with an acoustic fence as you can with a brick privacy wall, but you can still reduce noise quite a bit with this method.

5. Add water features

Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire—or in this case, water. Sound barriers are great, but let’s be real: It’s impossible to block out ALL the noise of the city. In this case, you should start thinking competitively and attempt to create your own white noise to counter the traffic. Water features like fountains, a pool, waterfalls, and streams in your yard can create a soothing source of white noise that drowns out unwanted sounds. No pun intended.

6. Build a shed

A well-placed shed can be a superb sound blocker while also adding some extra storage to your backyard. If you know there’s an acoustic corridor in your backyard, such as an opening in a wall or a passageway leading into your garden, a shed could be the perfect solution to stop those sound waves from getting any further. Still not quiet enough? Try soundproofing the shed to double down on your noise-reducing tactics.

Any other tips for reducing traffic noise in my backyard?

Your backyard is supposed to be a place you can retreat to for relaxation, and traffic noise can get in the way of that. But you don’t have to let it win! Any one of the techniques listed above can help you fight back, but a comprehensive landscaping strategy that includes vegetation, creative landscaping and design, and some soothing white noise is your best bet at turning your backyard into a peaceful sanctuary. And if you can still hear the countryside calling through all your newly-installed white noise, we’ve got a loan for that.

Reclaim your backyard zen with sound barriers, white noise, and more strategies to reduce the clamor of city life.

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HOME & GARDEN

10 Interior Design Tips for Every Budget

If current rates have you staying put, that doesn’t mean your decor has to stay the same, too. There are plenty of great ways to use interior decorating to refresh your space while reaching your savings goals. So many great ways, we couldn’t fit them all into this blog. To get you started, here are our top 10 interior design tips for a home that’s easy on the eyes and your bank account.

Top 10 Budget-Friendly Interior Design Tips

  • Reorganize and rearrange
  • Declutter
  • Repaint your trim
  • Replace fixtures
  • Thrift accent pieces
  • Add a pop of color to smaller furniture with paint or wallpaper
  • Support local/independent artists
  • Don’t forget the frame
  • Splurge on one item that makes a big difference
  • Be patient

1. Reorganize and rearrange

Before you consider purchasing new furniture and decor, take inventory of what you already have. Whether it’s adjusting the angle of your couch, moving those throw pillows to the bedroom, or rearranging your gallery wall, a new look doesn’t have to mean new stuff.

2. Declutter

Interior decorating isn’t just about adding new pieces—what you take out can have just as much impact. And, if you’re moving on from pieces that are still in good condition, you could actually resell them and make money off your redecorating plans rather than lose it. Pro-Tip: Not sure where to start? Ask yourself WWMKD: What would Marie Kondo do?

3. Repaint your trim

Painting is one of the cheapest ways to update your home’s look, but repainting entire rooms can be a lot of work. If you like work, more power to you! Otherwise, simply repainting the trim in your home can make a big difference for a small amount of money and effort.

4. Replace fixtures

When it comes to interior design tips on a budget, it’s all about the little things. In this case, swapping out knobs and handles on your cabinetry and furniture is a quick way to add character to your space and tie your rooms together. Unlike more work-intensive projects, this interior design tip is quick, mess-free, and easy to do yourself.

5. Thrift accent pieces

Thrifting can be hit or miss, but by sticking to smaller accents like lamps and side tables, there’s a good chance you’ll find quality pieces that fit your budget. Especially if you’re aiming for a more eclectic look over modern minimalist trends, thrifted furniture can bring a space together in a way that’s truly unique. Not to mention, it’s good for the environment and most vintage stores are independently owned and operated.

Pro-Tip: Nail your vintage purchase with this handy list of furniture thrifting considerations.

6. Add a pop of color

From repainting your bedside table to wallpapering the interior of your bookcase, a little color can turn a standard piece of furniture into a statement. Don’t be afraid to try out multiple patterns and palettes. If you change your mind later, you can always repaint again. And in this case, fortune really does favor the bold—it’s often easier to find bolder colors on sale since they’re generally not as popular as neutrals.

7. Support local/independent artists

Real talk: Fine art pieces are out of the average person’s budget. That doesn’t mean you have to settle for recreations and reprints. Seek out local (or independent, “local” is a relative term in the digital age) artists for unique pieces at reasonable prices. Just don’t try to haggle them to even lower prices. Remember that you’re paying them for the years spent learning their craft, the materials, the hours spent creating it, and the originality—not just the piece itself.

8. Don’t forget the frame

Unframed movie posters might be a coming-of-age decor right of passage, but you’re an adult now. That means you need to frame. Your. Art. The right frame can elevate a photo or art print you already have, create dimension on your walls, and bring texture to your interior. From simple custom frames to vintage scores, there are endless affordable options to express your style.

9. Splurge on one item that makes a big difference

Sometimes, it pays to pay more. If you’re thinking of replacing focal items like your couch or bed, you’ll save more in the long run by buying quality pieces that stand the test of time. It’s ultimately up to you to decide what’s worth splurging on based on how you use it. If you work from home, you may want to spend more on a great desk and comfortable chair. For families with kids and pets, a durable couch might be the priority. And if you’re a vampire who never sleeps, we understand if you’d rather invest less in your bed.

Pro-Tip: If you’re not sure how to prioritize what’s worth the splurge, check out this breakdown of essentials.

10. Be patient

All those home renovation shows make one big, complete transformation seem like the way to go when you decide to refresh your decor. Realistically, though, decorating your home is an ongoing process. Don’t spend money on pieces you don’t love just for the sake of filling a space. Take your time, buy as your budget allows, and don’t settle for anything that doesn’t feel like you (are we still talking about interior decorating?).

Any other interior design tips to consider?

The most important interior design tip we can give you might seem counterproductive to this whole blog you just read, but here it is: Trust your own taste over any interior decorating advice you might receive. Tips and tricks are a great place to find inspiration, but it’s ultimately your home, your budget, and your call. And if redecorating gets you thinking about larger-scale renovations, we’ve got a loan for that.

Thrift, paint, repeat. Try these easy interior design tips to give your home a fresh look without compromising your financial goals.

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HOME & GARDEN

Does a Swimming Pool Add to Home Value?

As the weather heats up, there’s no denying the appeal of a swimming pool in your own backyard. Before you take the plunge to have a pool installed, it’s important to ask yourself “Does a swimming pool add home value?” Answering that question is more complicated than you might think. So, let’s break down the pros and cons of pools.

Is a pool good or bad for home resale?

Some buyers might consider a pool more of a liability than a luxury. If your home has a swimming pool, it may be a feature that deters a family with small children or pets who don’t know how to swim.

You’ll also want to consider the true cost of a swimming pool, both for you as the homeowner installing it and for the potential buyer maintaining it. As a homeowner, it could cost you more than $50,000 to install, equip, and fill an inground pool. Maintenance costs could raise your utility bills each month, the chemicals could cost you hundreds during swimming season, and you may also want to increase your liability coverage on your homeowner’s insurance.

When is it a good idea to install a pool?

Adding a pool could increase your home’s value if:

  • You live in a warm climate
  • The style of your pool fits the neighborhood (and meets HOA regulations)
  • Most homes in your market have pools
  • You know you’ll keep up with maintenance
  • Your lot is big enough for a lawn and a pool
  • You plan on selling to buyers who would prefer a pool, like families with teenagers or empty nesters who host grandkids often.

Often, it’s all about location. Do you live in an area that appeals to the kind of buyers you want? Is there a good spot on your property for a pool? Does your HOA have strict specifications regarding pools? Ultimately, only you can make the call as to whether or not a pool is right for your home.

So, does a pool increase home value?

The truth is, whether or not a swimming pool adds home value is determined by a number of factors—the answer depends on your homeownership goals. But, when it comes time to sell your home, the right real estate agent can help you market your pool to buyers who will love your pool as much as you do. And if you’re staying put, take a dip for us. We’re not jealous or anything.