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Winter Adventures in New Mexico

by The Schnoor Team

Come ski and ride the winter sun on the incredible slopes in the Land of Enchantment! Our eight alpine and three Nordic ski areas dotted throughout the state will provide you with the ultimate in sporting options, stunning scenery, unbelievable food, out-of-this-world shopping, and a never-to-be-forgotten cultural experience.


 Skiing and snowboarding are not the only ways to enjoy New Mexico’s stunning outdoors in winter. Get out into the fresh mountain air under beautiful blue skies while snowshoeing, snowmobiling, viewing wildlife or simply strolling.

In late February, 2015, the largest storm in a decade blanketed New Mexico with more than 70 inches of snow. We were ready with our skis and boards. Here’s how it all went down. #NewMexicoTRUE

Source: "Winter Adventures"

New Mexico True Ed-Ventures

by The Schnoor Team

When is a vacation more than a vacation? When it’s an ed-venture! We’ve pulled together a list of the best learning opportunities for kids to deliver a double dose of excitement and education during your next family vacation. Whether you have a few hours to kill or a few days to commit, your child will love these special events, camps, and workshops found in all four corners of the state.

Is your child a Space Superhero?

Rocketeer Academy Summer Camp

New Mexico’s roots in space history run deep. From re-entry capsules to rockets, the Land of Enchantment is home to many of the technology breakthroughs behind space exploration as we know it today.

During this 5-day camp that repeats weekly in June and July at the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo, budding astronauts and astrophysicists (K – 9th) have the opportunity to experience hands on intergalactic adventure like building and launching rockets, designing and testing parachutes, having close encounters with unmanned vehicles at New Mexico State University, and practicing rock retrieval techniques like the ones used by NASA.

Bonus: Travel the New Mexico Space Trail to 52 historic sites important to our nation’s space history, and plan a night at the City of Rocks State Park for astronomical camping surrounded by information about the solar system.

Is your child an Extraordinary Explorer?

Candlelit Lantern Tour

Prepare for awe as your budding geologist gets an eyeful inside one of the world’s most impressive natural wonders. Each day at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in Carlsbad, park rangers lead a candlelit lantern tour through Left Hand Tunnel, an undeveloped section of the caverns. Children 6 and over (with a parent or guardian) will be amazed as they learn about natural science during this top-notch tour.

Bonus: Stick around to see thousands of Brazilian Free-Tailed Bats exit the caverns each evening from mid-April to late-October.

Summer Outdoor Adventure Programs

With classrooms ranging from the riverbeds and canyons of the Rio Grande Valley to the headwaters of the Jemez River, the Summer Outdoor Adventure Programs at the Pajarito Environmental Education Center are wonderful ways to explore the diverse ecosystems and cultures of Northern New Mexico. Camps include The Nature Odyssey Outdoor Adventure Program (grades 4-6), Living Earth Adventure Program (grades 7-8), and Backpacking Adventure for Teens (grades 9-12).

Is your child a Class Clown?

Circo Latino

This lively program engages a diverse group of students ages 8-13 in an exciting and intensive circus arts curriculum, including trapeze, clowning, juggling, hula hoops, stilting, acting, music, unicycle, and acrobatics and then allows these students to create a performance using these skills. The four-week program at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque is committed to teaching wellness and resiliency through circus arts and incorporates skill building, physical activity, Spanish language, and training in leadership, cooperation and creativity.

Is your child a Wild Thing?

Take a Llama to Lunch

Kids learn the basics of ecology, sustainability, history and wilderness skills as they hike with llamas from Wild Earth Adventures. Each guided hike is accompanied by a gourmet meal (all fresh ingredients carried in by the llamas) to be enjoyed in the pristine wilderness surrounding Taos. Multi-day adventures are also available, where families may choose to summit peaks, explore ancient forests, or discover hidden alpine lakes and meadows. Educational nature games and lessons about tracking come standard, and evenings are enjoyed sitting around the campfire, telling stories, and having fun.

Bonus: Walk with a wolf near El Morro National Monument at the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, or learn all about alpacas during an educational tour and feeding at Victory Ranch in Mora.

Is your child a Budding Buckaroo?

Cowboy Days

Curious cowpokes can get up close and personal with the Wild, Wild West during this two-day event each March at the Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces. Sharpshooting, blacksmithing, and gunfight reenactments take center stage as families are invited to learn about life as an old New Mexico cowboy. Also on the agenda are stagecoach rides, sheep shearing, wool dyeing and lessons about the importance of cattle, sheep, farming techniques and practices that are unique to New Mexico’s ancient agricultural history.

Fort Stanton Live and Old Lincoln Days

Kids on the hunt for action need look no further than these two events. Each July at the Fort Stanton Historic Site, and in August at the Lincoln Historic Site (both in SE New Mexico), families will encounter reenactments in period costume, old-fashioned kids games, and dynamic opportunities to learn the important history that forts played in the settling of the great American West, as well as experience what life in the 1800’s was like. As a bonus, Old Lincoln Days boasts the country's oldest running Western Pageant "The Last Escape of Billy the Kid."

Is your child a Creative Genius?

Arts Alive!

Every summer at the Museum of International Folk Art and Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, Arts Alive! brings kids K-through-12 together with some of New Mexico’s most prominent folk and Native American artists. Children will learn about traditional art forms from different cultures as they make their own pottery, baskets, and notched paper picture frames. While enjoying the creative process, children learn the unique history and uses of their art creations and the place they hold in New Mexican culture.

Is your child a Cultured Character?

Flamenco Kids Camp

Held each June in concert with the Festival Flamenco Internacional de Albuquerque, children ages 6-12 are invited to learn the full range of flamenco arts and culture via classes in dance, guitar, cajón (percussion), cante (singing), Spanish language, and literacy. This two-week camp at the Conservatory of Flamenco Arts concludes with a student performance at the historic KiMo Theater in downtown Albuquerque.

Bonus: Check out the Kids Camp at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center for hands-on workshops in printmaking, pottery, and painting. Children also learn to cook their own Pueblo-inspired cuisine.

Is your kid a Math Whiz?

MathAmuseum

The MathAmuseum provides programs at the intersection of science, technology, engineering art, and mathematics. Its services include a traveling math museum, education programs, and communication training for subject matter experts. The soul of mathematics is recognizing and celebrating patterns.

Source: "New Mexico True Ed-Ventures"

 

Summer Events

by The Schnoor Team

August 31 – September 1

As summer cools down, the Village of Hatch heats up. Labor Day weekend heralds the annual Hatch Chile Festival, a two-day celebration of New Mexico’s most esteemed crop. Festivalgoers can sample famed chile recipes, watch the crowning of the Chile Festival queen, or toss a horseshoe in celebration of our most famous crop.  Hatch Chile Festival!

 

Please click: http://www.hatchchilefest.com/

Source: "Summer Events"

What Does Homeowners Insurance Cover?

by The Schnoor Team

You’d be surprised at what your home insurance policy doesn’t cover. Here’s what is and isn’t covered by your insurance.

What does your homeowners insurance cover? The short answer is: “A basic homeowners insurance policy (called HO-1 in insurance lingo) covers your home and possessions if they’re damaged or destroyed by these things:

  • Fire     
  • Lightning
  • Windstorm (unless you live in a hurricane zone)
  • Hail (not available everywhere)
  • Explosion
  • Riots
  • Civil commotion
  • Aircraft  (and things falling from aircraft)
  • Vehicles (and things thrown from vehicles)
  • Smoke
  • Vandalism (although some policies exclude this)
  • Malicious mischief
  • Theft
  • Volcanic eruption

But many states don’t allow this basic policy to be sold. Instead, you have to buy an upgraded policy that covers more perils.

Upgraded Homeowners Insurance

That upgraded policy (called HO-2) adds protection to your home and possessions from even more perils. You get protection from everything on the HO-1 list (above) plus:

  • Falling objects
  • The weight of ice, snow, or sleet
  • Flooding from your appliances, plumbing, HVAC, or fire-protection sprinkler system
  • Damage to electrical parts caused by artificially generated electrical currents (such as a power surge not caused by lightning). But damaged electronics such as computers aren't covered.
  • Glass breakage
  • Abrupt collapse (say from termite damage)

That same list applies to the homeowners insurance you buy for a condominium or co-op (except then it’s called HO-6 instead of HO-2).

With HO-1, HO-2, and HO-6, what you see is what you get. So if zombies attacked your home, your HO-1 or HO-2 wouldn’t cover the damage because zombies aren’t on the list of specific things those policies cover.

The Most Complete Homeowners Insurance

The most complete and protective form of homeowners insurance (called HO-3) covers you for all perils except some specific ones like:

  • Floods
  • Earthquakes
  • Wars
  • Nuclear accidents
  • Landslides
  • Mudslides
  • Sinkholes

With this policy, if zombies attacked, you’d be covered because zombies weren’t specifically excluded by your HO-3 policy.

What Homeowners Insurance Doesn’t Cover

No matter which basic policy you get, it’s not going to cover everything than can damage or destroy your home. Typical homeowners policies don’t cover:

  • Bad things that happen because you failed to maintain your home (like mold)
  • Hurricanes
  • Floods
  • Earthquakes
  • Mudslides
  • Landslides
  • Sinkholes
  • War
  • Nuclear accidents
  • Sewer backups
  • Sump pump failure
  • Ground movement and holes caused by mining (known as mine subsidence insurance)
  • Pollution


You can buy additional policies to cover some but not all of those perils (a quick Google search didn’t turn up any nuclear accident coverage).

And even if insurance is available for the most common natural disaster in your area, you may not be able to buy it if your home has features that make it vulnerable. For example, a home with unrated wood shake roof shingles may be tough to insure in an area where wildfires are common.

Other Things Homeowners Insurance Covers

In addition to covering your home, homeowners insurance also covers four more things:

1. Your outbuildings, landscaping, and hardscaping. If you have outbuildings (like a barn), landscaping, or hardscaping (like fences), your homeowners policy most likely covers those for up to 10% of your policy amount (5% for plants).

For example, if you have $100,000 in homeowners insurance and someone drives into your fence, the policy would cover 10%, or $10,000 in repairs.

Sometimes policies exclude damage to outbuildings, landscaping, or hardscaping caused by a particular peril (like wind).

2. Damage or loss of your personal belongings. Your homeowners policy covers your family’s belongings, even when you take them out of the house. If your child heads to college with a laptop and it’s stolen, that’s probably covered by your homeowners insurance policy.

A home insurance policy covers a lot of your personal belongings, but not necessarily everything.

You’ll need additional insurance if you have many expensive items like jewelry, furs, or antiques.

Policies will either state that your personal belongings are insured for replacement cost or cash value.

Replacement cost means that the insurance company will pay the full cost of replacing an item (such as the laptop mentioned above, or a sofa damaged in a fire) once you show a receipt. Cash value means the insurance company will issue you a check for the amount that the laptop or sofa would have been worth when it was stolen or destroyed.

3. Temporary living expenses if your home is so damaged you can’t live in it. When you can’t live in your home, your homeowners insurance covers your living expenses, including hotel bills and meals. But, you can’t live in the hotel forever and eat lobster every night on the insurance company’s tab. Your policy will have limits on how long you stay and how much you can spend.

4. Injuries or accidents at your house. Homeowners insurance coverage includes liability – meaning it covers you when you or your family members cause injuries or damage. This coverage also pays when your dog bites someone (medical payments) or someone falls and injures themselves.

Add an umbrella policy to boost your liability coverage into the millions.

Homeowners Insurance for Older Homes

There’s another kind of homeowners insurance (HO-8) used when your home is so old it would be impossible to replace. It couldn't be built like the original -- that is, new electrical code wouldn't permit the same electrical, etc.

An HO-8 policy covers the same perils as the basic HO-1, but will only pay you the repair cost or market value instead of the replacement value.

If your home is old, but not so old that it’s historic, you might want another homeowners insurance coverage. A “law and ordinance” policy covers the cost of rebuilding using today’s building codes. It’s good to have if the building codes have changed a lot (for example, in Florida) since your home was built.

Source: "What Does Homeowners Insurance Cover?"

7 Home Improvement Ideas That Stretch Your Dollars the Most

by The Schnoor Team

Enjoy your home more today — and sell it for the best price tomorrow.

When it comes to home improvement ideas, some are more financially savvy than others. And if you’re on a limited budget, it becomes even more important to be savvy.

Here are seven affordable home improvement projects that’ll help you enjoy your home more today and provide excellent financial return in the future.

#1 Add the Finishing Touch of Molding

Crown molding makes rooms seem both bigger taller. It's an elegant addition to any home.

Plus, wood moldings come in hundreds of options -- from simple to ornate -- that you can stain, paint, or leave natural.

You can also find moldings in flexible materials, such as foam, that make installation a whole lot easier. Some moldings even include lighting that casts a soft, ambient glow. 

And at $1.50 per foot if you DIY it, or $8 per foot if you hire, it’s a no-brainer in terms of personalizing your home while adding value. (Although we don’t recommend DIY unless you’ve got above-par mitering skills.)

A few tips about molding:

Be careful about proportions. If your ceiling height is 9 feet or less, go with simpler styles to avoid overwhelming the room.

Place a chair railing at one-third the distance of the ceiling height. Chair railing placed incorrectly can make a room seem out of proportion.

Don’t forget entryways, doors, and windows: Bump up the trim around these areas to give rooms a completed and expensive feel.

#2 Hang Quality Ceiling Fans

If your ceiling fans are old and outdated, new ones (coupled with a fresh paint job and crown molding) could give your rooms a refreshing update while saving money.

Some tips about ceiling fans:

  • Hang 7 to 8 feet above the floor.
  • If you’ve got a low ceiling, buy a hugger ceiling fan that’s flush-mounted.
  • Go for the biggest Energy Star-rated fan that will fit the space.
  • Choose quality. You’ll get better cooling results, less noise, and good looks at a digestible price point of $200 to $600.

​​

#3 Plant Some Trees

Say what? Adding trees doesn’t instantly pop into your head when you think of adding value to your home. But trees are moneymakers that get better with age.

A mature tree could be worth between $1,000 to $10,000, says the Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers. A 16-inch silver maple could be worth $2,562, according to a formula worked out by the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service.

In urban areas, money really does grow on trees. A recent study of home sales by the Pacific Northwest Research Station of Portland showed that street trees growing in front of or near a house boosted its sale price by an average of $8,870 and shaved two days off its time on the market.

There’s more. Trees also:

  • Save $100 to $250 annually in energy costs
  • Lower stress
  • Prevent erosion from downpours and roof runoff
  • Protect your home from wind, rain, and sun

#4 Install a Deck or Patio

But don’t go crazy and trick out your outdoor space with high-end amenities, like an outdoor kitchen — especially if you’d be the only one on the block with one. When it’s time to sell, you won’t get back much — if any — of your investment on outdoor kitchens and other high-end amenities. Instead, keep it simple and functional to see a return on investment.

A professionally installed deck costs about $10,000 to install, but if you DIY it, you'll save more than half that while adding to your equity.

Don’t skimp on deck lighting. It can make all the difference in functionality and beautification.

#5 Upgrade Your Insulation

It's not as sexy as a kitchen remodel, but it doesn't cost as much either ($65,000 vs $2,100).

Plus, you'll save all year long on your utility bills. Win-win!

#6 Add Some Creative Storage

We don’t have to sell you on the value of storage and built-in organization. Since when have you heard someone complain about too much storage? Never, we bet.

Adding storage is a no-brainer, but it does take a little brainpower to find your home’s hidden storage.

Here are a few ways to think outside of the toy box:

  • Open drywall to create storage cubbies between your wall’s studs.
  • Install platform storage that hangs from your garage ceiling.
  • Even stairs can give you more storage. One clever mom repurposed an old chest of drawers and created storage within a basement staircase.

#7 Install Landscape Lighting

Exterior lighting makes your home shine in the evening, accents features you like most about your house, and helps keep burglars away. Installing motion-detecting lights can even lower some homeowners’ insurance premiums.

Landscaping lighting tips:

  • Place accent lights under your favorite trees to show off your landscaping’s top earners.
  • Put them on a timer so you don’t waste energy running them during the day.
  • Choose a warm, white light. It'll make your home look and feel welcoming.

Source: "7 Home Improvement Ideas That Stretch Your Dollars the Most"

7 Smart Strategies for Kitchen Remodeling

by The Schnoor Team

Follow these seven strategies to get the most financial gain on your kitchen remodel.

Homeowners spend more money on kitchen remodeling than on any other home improvement project. And with good reason: Kitchens are the hub of home life and a source of pride.

A significant portion of kitchen remodeling costs may be recovered by the value the project brings to your home. A complete kitchen renovation with a national median cost of $65,000 recovers about 62% of the initial project cost at the home’s resale, according to the "Remodeling Impact Report" from the National Association of REALTORS®.

The project gets a big thumbs-up from homeowners, too. Those polled in the "Report" gave their new kitchen a Joy Score of 10 (out of 10!), a rating based on those who said they were happy or satisfied with their remodeling, with 10 being the highest rating and 1 the lowest.

To help ensure you get a good return on your kitchen remodel, follow these seven tips:

#1 Plan, Plan, Plan

Planning your kitchen remodel should take more time than the actual construction. If you plan well, the amount of time you’re inconvenienced by construction mayhem will be minimized. Plus, you’re more likely to stay on budget.

How much time should you spend planning? The National Kitchen and Bath Association recommends at least six months. That way, you won’t be tempted to change your mind during construction and create change orders, which will inflate construction costs and hurt your return on investment. 

Some tips on planning:

Study your existing kitchen:
 How wide is the doorway into your kitchen? It’s a common mistake many homeowners make: Buying the extra-large fridge only to find they can’t get it in the doorway.To avoid mistakes like this, create a drawing of your kitchen with measurements for doorways, walkways, counters, etc. And don’t forget height, too.

Think about traffic patterns: Work aisles should be a minimum of 42 inches wide and at least 48 inches wide for households with multiple cooks.

Design with ergonomics in mind: Drawers or pull-out shelves in base cabinets; counter heights that can adjust up or down; a wall oven instead of a range: These are all features that make a kitchen accessible to everyone — and a pleasure to work in.

Plan for the unforeseeable: Even if you’ve planned down to the number of nails you’ll need in your remodel, expect the unexpected. Build in a little leeway for completing the remodel. Want it done by Thanksgiving? Then plan to be done before Halloween.

Choose all your fixtures and materials before starting: Contractors will be able to make more accurate bids, and you’ll lessen the risk of delays because of back orders.

Don’t be afraid to seek help: A professional designer can simplify your kitchen remodel. Pros help make style decisions, foresee potential problems, and schedule contractors. Expect fees around $50 to $150 per hour, or 5% to 15% of the total cost of the project.

#2 Get Real About Appliances

It’s easy to get carried away when planning your new kitchen. A six-burner commercial-grade range and luxury-brand refrigerator may make eye-catching centerpieces, but they may not fit your cooking needs or lifestyle.

Appliances are essentially tools used to cook and store food. Your kitchen remodel shouldn’t be about the tools, but the design and functionality of the entire kitchen.

So unless you’re an exceptional cook who cooks a lot, concentrate your dollars on long-term features that add value, such as cabinets and flooring. 

Then choose appliances made by trusted brands that have high marks in online reviews and Consumer Reports.

#3 Keep the Same Footprint

Nothing will drive up the cost of a remodel faster than changing the location of plumbing pipes and electrical outlets, and knocking down walls. This is usually where unforeseen problems occur.

So if possible, keep appliances, water fixtures, and walls in the same location. Not only will you save on demolition and reconstruction costs, you’ll cut the amount of dust and debris your project generates.

#4 Don’t Underestimate the Power of Lighting

Lightning can make a world of difference in a kitchen. It can make it look larger and brighter. And it will help you work safely and efficiently. You should have two different types of lighting in your kitchen: 

Task Lighting: Under-cabinet lighting should be on your must-do list, since cabinets create such dark work areas. And since you’re remodeling, there won’t be a better time to hard-wire your lights. (Here’s more about under-cabinet lights.) Plan for at least two fixtures per task area to eliminate shadows. Pendant lights are good for islands and other counters without low cabinets. Recessed lights and track lights work well over sinks and general prep areas with no cabinets overhead.

Ambient lighting: Flush-mounted ceiling fixtures, wall sconces, and track lights create overall lighting in your kitchen. Include dimmer switches to control intensity and mood.

#5 Be Quality-Conscious

Functionality and durability should be top priorities during kitchen remodeling. Resist low-quality bargains, and choose products that combine low maintenance with long warranty periods. Solid-surface countertops, for instance, may cost a little more, but with the proper care, they’ll look great for a long time.

And if you’re planning on moving soon, products with substantial warranties are a selling advantage.

#6 Add Storage, Not Space

Storage will never go out of style, but if you’re sticking with the same footprint, here are a couple of ideas to add more: 

Install cabinets that reach the ceiling: They may cost more — and you might need a stepladder — but you’ll gain valuable storage space for Christmas platters and other once-a-year items. In addition, you won’t have to dust cabinet tops.

Hang it up: Mount small shelving units on unused wall areas and inside cabinet doors; hang stock pots and large skillets on a ceiling-mounted rack; and add hooks to the backs of closet doors for aprons, brooms, and mops.

#7 Communicate Clearly With Your Remodelers

Establishing a good rapport with your project manager or construction team is essential for staying on budget. To keep the sweetness in your project:

Drop by the project during work hours: Your presence broadcasts your commitment to quality.

Establish a communication routine: Hang a message board on site where you and the project manager can leave daily communiqués. Give your email address and cell phone number to subs and team leaders.

Set house rules: Be clear about smoking, boom box noise levels, available bathrooms, and appropriate parking.

Be kind: Offer refreshments (a little hospitality can go a long way), give praise when warranted, and resist pestering them with conversation, jokes, and questions when they are working. They’ll work better when refreshed and allowed to concentrate on work.

And a final tip to help keep your frustration level down while the construction is going on: plan for a temporary kitchen along with the plans for your new kitchen. You'll be happier (and less frustrated) if you've got a way to have dinner while construction is ongoing.

Source: "7 Smart Strategies for Kitchen Remodeling"

Before You Choose a Mortgage Lender, Read These Tips

by The Schnoor Team

Someone out there wants to help save you time, stress, and money. Here’s how you find them.

Everyone in the market for a house has different wants — pre-war charm, a lush backyard, a welcoming front door in Pantone Ultra Violet, perhaps — but at the end of the day, they all share a need in common: money. Lots of it.

That’s where your mortgage lender comes in.

The right lender can save you time, anxiety, and loads of cash. And the right loan officer — the professional who represents the lender — can be a powerful ally when you close on a mortgage. As with any potentially life-altering partnership, it’s important to choose wisely.

Only You Know Which Lender Is Your Type

There are three types of mortgage lenders — retail banks, credit unions, and mortgage banks — as well as mortgage brokers, who compare loan products via a coterie of potential lenders to help you, the client, find the right one. Before you start narrowing down the candidates, you have to know what you’re looking for, and where to find it. Let’s talk about your options.

Retail Banks

What they are: These are your Chases and Banks of America, plus your local banks. They do their own underwriting (in a nutshell, investigating your finances), so retail banks, especially the smaller ones, can sometimes offer lower fees and less-stringent credit requirements. If you like to have your accounts all in one place, you may want to use your own bank or credit union.

Who you’ll work with: You’ll be assigned a loan officer, who will receive a commission or bonus for writing your loan.

Credit Unions

What they are: They’re not-for-profit and customer-owned, so they’re not beholden to shareholders like a bank. Because of that and their not-for-profit tax status, they typically offer more personal service and lower fees. The flip side is less convenience: They have fewer branches and ATMs.

And to apply for a loan, you must be a member of the credit union’s community, which could be faith-, employment-, interest-, or union-based, among other things. That said, it’s typically not difficult to become a member; the National Credit Union Administration’s Credit Union Locator is a tool for finding credit unions near you.

Who you’ll work with: As with a bank, you’ll be assigned a loan officer, who will receive a commission or bonus for writing your loan.

Mortgage Banks

What they are: These banks, such as AimLoan and PennyMac, only offer home loans. Many online lenders, like Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans, operate as mortgage banks.

Who you’ll work with: A mortgage bank will assign you a loan officer, who will receive a commission or bonus from the lender’s gross fees for writing your loan. An online lender is going to offer less hand-holding.

Mortgage Brokers

What they are: Mortgage brokers are essentially personal home loan shoppers — they act as liaisons between home buyers and mortgage lenders to help people find the lowest rates and the best mortgage terms. They’re able to get home buyers the best mortgage rates because they leverage their existing relationships with lenders — something individual home buyers can’t do. By doing the heavy lifting for the borrower, the idea is that they make loan shopping more convenient — and perhaps a bit faster.

Who you’ll work with: A mortgage broker can be an individual agent or a group of agents, who act as independent contractors. In exchange for their services, mortgage brokers typically charge a 1% to 2% fee of the loan amount, which is either paid by the borrower or the lender at closing.

Now that you’re armed with the basics, you’ll want to give yourself time to weigh the options about which lender, exactly, to work with.

It Pays to Shop Around Before You Commit

Over the life of the loan, seemingly subtle differences could add up to tens of thousands of dollars. That money belongs to future you and all your dream vacations, renovations, and remodeling #goals.

So before you choose your specific lender ...

  • Thoroughly research any retail bank, credit union, mortgage bank, mortgage broker, or online option you’re considering. Make sure you’re clear on what they can offer you. About one in five (21%) home buyers said they regret their choice of mortgage lender, according to a recent J.D. Power survey. You’re doing your homework so that won’t be you.
  • Interview lenders. You’re aiming for a shortlist of three. (You’ll see why it’s three in a minute.) If you’re thinking about selecting an online lender, make sure you take into account these tips and tricks.
  • Don’t be shy about seeking advice. Survey your family, friends, and coworkers —  especially the ones who are nerdy about money.
  • Ask your real estate agent for a second opinion. They have experience with reputable lenders, particularly in your city or town.

Now, let’s say you’ve narrowed your list of potential lenders to at least three candidates. The next step? Finding out whether they will give you a loan.

You Should Seek Out a Lender’s (Pre-)Approval, Too

There’s a world of difference between being pre-qualified for a loan and being pre-approved. Pre-approval means you’ve got skin in the game. It means you’re a boss. And it’s proof that you can buy.

Besides being the grown-up thing to do, pre-approval puts you in a better position when you make an offer. Everyone takes you more seriously. Pre-approval provides evidence to your real estate agent and the seller (or seller’s agent) that a trusted financial institution is willing to finance the purchase.

In most housing markets, sellers are going to expect your to be pre-approved when you make your offer. And when you’re pre-approved, you’re more likely to have your offer accepted — or at least, you won’t lose out on a bid because you have to go back to the bank to get approved for a loan.

As for pre-qualification, it’s an approximation and not necessary unless you have no clue about your creditworthiness and just want a snapshot.

By contrast, with a pre-approval, a lender typically goes deeper and tells you more specifically how big a loan you can get. Caution here: Just because the lender says you can take out a loan for an amount, doesn't mean you should. Consider your lifestyle and monthly budget to decide on the responsible loan amount for you.

Keep a Lid On Credit Pulls

Lenders pull your credit to pre-approve you, which can ding your score. But don’t let that hinder your comparison shopping; credit bureaus cut mortgage shoppers some slack. Still, this isn’t the time to apply for a car or furniture loan.

To get pre-approved, you must also authorize a lender to pull your credit.

  • Borrowers with credit scores of 760 or higher can typically qualify for the lowest interest rates.
  • Borrowers with credit scores below 650 may need to apply for a non-conventional mortgage, such as a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan — a government-backed loan that requires a minimum credit score of 580 but lets borrowers make as low as a 3.5% down payment.
  • Borrowers with credit scores below 580 can still qualify for FHA loans, but they’ll have to make at least a 10% down payment. The lower the score, the tighter the requirements become.

When you’re pre-approved, you’ll receive a Loan Estimate. This three-page document is about to be your new best friend.

It Makes Good Sense to Get Pre-Approved by at Least Three Lenders

A Loan Estimate spells out a future loan’s terms, including:

  • The interest rate
  • The length of the loan
  • Estimated costs of taxes and insurance
  • How interest rates and payments might change over time
  • Other important financials

By comparing loan estimates, you can effectively size up your loan options and decide which lender is best for you — and your future. (If you need help navigating the details, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers a sample Loan Estimate with helpful tips and definitions.)

Getting pre-approval early in the process also gives you an edge over other buyers. Here’s why:

  • The amount you’re approved for can help you determine your price range, and thus save time and frustration when shopping.
  • It sends a signal to your agent and sellers that you’re serious about buying a home.
  • It’ll help you move quickly to make an offer when you see a home you like.

And it’s an excuse to celebrate! You now have everything you need to move ahead with that one special lender — and, at the same time, connect with an officer or broker who can help you select the home loan product that’s best for you.

So have a cocktail. Do a dance. Lay back and relax in one of those fancy sheet masks. You’re a (huge) step closer to getting a new house.

Source: "Before You Choose a Mortgage Lender, Read These Tips"

 

What Not to Do as a New Homeowner

by The Schnoor Team

Avoid these easy-to-prevent mistakes that could cost you big time.

You've finally settled into your new home.

You're hanging pictures and pinning ideas for your favorite bath.

But in all your excitement, are you missing something? Now that you're a bonafide homeowner are there things you should know that you don't?

Probably so. Here are six mistakes new homeowners often make, and why they're critically important to avoid.

#1 Not Knowing Where the Main Water Shutoff Valve Is

Water from a burst or broken plumbing pipe can spew dozens of gallons into your home's interior in a matter of minutes, soaking everything in sight -- including drywall, flooring, and valuables. In fact, water damage is one of the most common of all household insurance claims.

Quick-twitch reaction is needed to stave off a major bummer. Before disaster hits, find your water shutoff valve, which will be located where a water main enters your house. Make sure everyone knows where it's located and how to close the valve. A little penetrating oil on the valve stem makes sure it'll work when you need it to.

#2 Not Calling 811 Before Digging a Hole

Ah, spring! You're so ready to dig into your new yard and plant bushes and build that fence. But don't -- not until you've dialed 811, the national dig-safely hotline. The hotline will contact all your local utilities who will then come to your property -- often within a day -- to mark the location of underground pipes, cables, and wires.

This free service keeps you safe and helps avoid costly repairs. In many states, calling 811 is the law, so you'll also avoid fines.

#3 Not Checking the Slope of Foundation Soil

The ground around your foundation should slope away from your house at least 6 inches over 10 feet. Why? To make sure that water from rain and melting snow doesn't soak the soil around your foundation walls, building up pressure that can cause leaks and crack your foundation, leading to mega-expensive repairs.

This kind of water damage doesn't happen overnight -- it's accumulative -- so the sooner you get after it, the better (and smarter) you'll be. While you're at it, make sure downspouts extend at least 5 feet away from your house.

#4 Not Knowing the Depth of Attic Insulation

This goes hand-in-hand with not knowing where your attic access is located, so let's start there. Find the ceiling hatch, typically a square area framed with molding in a hallway or closet ceiling. Push the hatch cover straight up. Get a ladder and check out the depth of the insulation. If you can see the tops of joists, you definitely don't have enough.

The recommended insulation for most attics is about R-38 or 10 to 14 inches deep, depending on the type of insulation you choose. BTW, is your hatch insulated, too? Use 4-inch-thick foam board glued to the top.

#5 Carelessly Drilling into Walls

Hanging shelves, closet systems, and artwork means drilling into your walls -- but do you know what's back there? Hidden inside your walls are plumbing pipes, ductwork, wires, and cables.

You can check for some stuff with a stud sensor -- a $25 battery-operated tool that detects changes in density to sniff out studs, cables, and ducts.

But stud sensors aren't foolproof. Protect yourself by drilling only 1¼ inches deep max -- enough to clear drywall and plaster but not deep enough to reach most wires and pipes.

Household wiring runs horizontally from outlet to outlet about 8 inches to 2 feet from the floor, so that's a no-drill zone. Stay clear of vertical locations above and below wall switches -- wiring runs along studs to reach switches.

#6 Cutting Down a Tree

The risk isn't worth it. Even small trees can fall awkwardly, damaging your house, property, or your neighbor's property. In some locales, you have to obtain a permit first. Cutting down a tree is an art that's best left to a professional tree service.

Plus, trees help preserve property values and provide shade that cuts energy bills. So think twice before going all Paul Bunyan.

Source: "What Not to Do as a New Homeowner"

 

5 Tricks to Rejuvenate a Run-Down Patio on a Budget

by The Schnoor Team

Is your patio oh so shabby? These super-easy projects will make hanging outside fun again.

Oh, your poor, sad patio. Not a comfy seat to be had, and that cracked concrete . . . well, it probably looked really great when disco was king.

Whether you love to entertain friends or bask in the sun with a cocktail and a novel, here are five easy ways to inject new life into your little corner of nature.

#1 Stop the Pests that Make Your Patio Look Untidy

It's hard to enjoy your patio if it's covered in debris scattered by the wind or by critters with a penchant for digging and trampling. Stop critters with the humble pine cone -- instead of regular mulch.

Those spiny cones will deter pests and mischievous pets.

And chances are your plants will LOVE them because they acidify the soil. Showstopper plants like azaleas and rhododendrons will burst with color.

Pine cones also decompose slowly, so you won't be constantly re-upping your supply — saving you time and money. In most parts of the country, you can easily find them for free.

#2 Pop Some Color on that Concrete Patio

Rejuvenate that dilapidated patio with color in a can.

Try painting it a bold, bright color or a fun pattern, like chevron. You can also mimic the appearance of upscale stone patios with just a bit of paint and some stamps.

If you want to let your creative juices flow, try mimicking a carpet or even a game board, such as Twister. At the very least, a new coat of concrete stain will give that tired concrete a fresh look.

#3 Ditch the Rust But Not the Furniture

Lounging on your patio, cocktail in hand, requires something to lounge on.

But if that secondhand chaise you bought post-college is covered in rust, you're not going to be relaxing on it in your summer whites anytime soon. But replacing it is expensive — and a waste! Give it a rust-busting makeover, instead.

There are several ways to remove rust.

If the damage isn't too extensive, the job can be as simple as scraping it off. Use a wire brush, sandpaper, or steel wool — and a bit of elbow grease — to scour it away.

For less effort, use a drill with a wire brush attachment.

For more extensive rust issues, you can use an acidic agent like vinegar to help with the removal. Or use a chemical rust converter (such as Rust-Oleum), which actually changes the rust into a different substance and protects against future rusting, adding years to your chaise's lifespan.

Paint over the treated spot and that chaise will be right back to its glory days and ready for you in your white shorts.

#4 Create Outdoor Storage

If a dumpy layer of clutter and scattered pots make your patio look sad, consider adding DIY storage to keep all of your outdoor whatnots neat and tidy.

"Storage can be as important outdoors as it is indoors," says Keith Sacks, a professional landscaper (he's VP of the landscaping company Rubber Mulch).

One of his favorite solutions is super easy and fun:

Paint wooden crates (about $10 each) to match your patio (or try a bright, fun, contrasting color) and add a sealant to weatherproof the wood. Arrange them to create attractive, rustic storage. Glue the crates together and attach wheels to the bottom if you want to be able to move it around.

#5 Build a Fire Pit — No Tools Needed

Sometimes the best way to distract from a patio that needs some love is by drawing attention to a feature that does nothing but delight.

A mini fire pit can serve as an arresting visual focal point while adding more fun and function to your patio.

Creating your own outdoor s'more-making oasis doesn't have to take much time or money. Try DIY blog Young House Love's super-cheap, pint-sized pit, which requires only heat-resistant pavers (also called fire bricks), which cost about $5 per stone.

Stack two layers of them in a small circle about six bricks in circumference on top of a stone slab, and there you have it: a mini fire pit.

Make sure your patio is constructed with fire-safe materials before attempting this project (sorry, wooden deck lovers!) and that you follow local fire codes.

Time to grab a few marshmallows!

Source: "5 Tricks to Rejuvenate a Run-Down Patio on a Budget"

Chile Capital of the World

by The Schnoor Team

 

No adventure in New Mexico is complete until you have experienced our cuisine.


Unlike any other, it is a blend of flavors from Spanish and Native American cultures that has been perfected over the course of 400 years. At the center of it all is the New Mexican chile, in both red and green varieties, which is used in everything from enchiladas to ice cream. Whether you are looking for a dining experience that has received a James Beard award or an authentic dive off the beaten path, you will find it here.

Click the link below to find Culinary Treasures, Ale Trail, Wine Trail, Chocolate Trail, Green Chili Cheeseburger Trail and Breakfast Burrito Byway. 

Source: "Chile Capital of the World"

 

 

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