Financing a Home in 2018

The American Dream of homeownership is still alive and well for many people across the country. Each year a new group of potential homebuyers enter the market and the excitement of owning their own home begins to blossom. Understanding what it means to own a home, the finances involved and all of the added expenses that come along with home ownership can sometimes be surprising, and being prepared and budgeting for the right home is a great place to begin. Many people start looking for houses, then once they find the one they love, they will try to get approved.  It’s actually a better idea to get prequalified for a mortgage so you understand which houses will fit within your family budget.  Once you have the pre-qualification you will be able to look for a house or land where you can build a custom home.

Saleswoman talking with customers at office

Working with a mortgage banker, like those at Hamilton State Bank, will allow you the ability to know what will work with your budget, and they will also assist you with any information you may need to know about down payment requirements and match you with the best loan options available.  Some homebuyers will qualify for USDA or VA loans, which provide 100% financing with no down payments, and others may qualify for FHA loans, which may provide a better interest rate than conventional financing depending on your credit rating.  FHA loans are generally granted to those whose credit ratings are below 660.  An FHA loan may also offer you the option to pay a 3.5% down payment, and in some states grants and other down payment assistance may be available.

Although the average sales price of a home is on the rise, other fees including mortgage insurance rates have seen a reduction in the past couple of years.  With interest rates still hovering below 5%, new buyers have the advantage of lower payments and ultimately more buying power.  At times there are issues with credit repair that need to be addressed prior to being qualified for a mortgage and with new  regulations in place some lenders allow non-occupying co-buyers to assist during the qualification process, should it be necessary to secure your loan. 

Young woman signing contract with manager

If you already own your land, you may have other options available to assist you with the down payment.  The process and amount allowed varies among lenders, however in some cases you may be able to allow your land equity to qualify as your down payment, and no worries if the equity doesn’t cover the full down payment you can still use the portion it will qualify for, thus reducing the amount of out-of-pocket funds you will be required to provide at closing.

For more information about being pre-qualified or learning about your finance options, visit us at

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Gearing up for the Summer Season

Family with children running at the beach

As Summer approaches many people will be thinking about children being out of school, planning summer vacations and camps and looking for ways to enjoy the warm summer months.  Gearing up for the summer season is always fun, but there are a few things you may want to do in order to have a good summer season.

Senior man opening air conditioning filter in ceiling

In regards to your home, it may be time to change your air filters, also have your HVAC system checked early in the season to keep from running into problems or waking up in the middle of summer to a unit that isn’t working properly.  During the summer months HVAC companies can become back logged and it may take a few days to get someone out to your house – so be proactive about your home maintenance.  You will also want to make sure your gutters are cleaned out so as the spring and summer rains come in you don’t encounter unwanted leaks or puddles in your landscaping.  To avoid excessive mosquitoes, make sure empty flowerpots or other pails, tubs or outdoor accessories are turned upside down to keep from retaining water and creating a mosquito breeding ground!

Paper wasp nest on triangular roof siding

Summertime can also bring about unwanted pests like wasps.  As you get your home ready for the summer season, go ahead and walk around your home and remove any wasp nests that may be hiding between fence posts or under the eaves of your home.  This is also a good time to update your pest control contract, or find organic ways to deter spiders and other creepy crawlies from nesting around your living space.

For your everyday ventures, make sure you have plenty of water around the house for kids to drink and encourage them to make some homemade popsicles or frozen grapes to snack on.  Making sure you have sunscreen on hand is also a great way to ensure you and your kids are enjoying summer safely.

For those of you who may live in a coastal area, review your hurricane preparedness plan and make sure you have the items recommended for a safe summer season.

Before you run out and gas up the boat and gear up for all the family fun summer months can bring, make sure you take the time to address your home maintenance needs and put a little preparedness into your summer planning.

For more information on home maintenance suggestions feel free to visit us at

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Wireless Networking Systems

It’s always exciting to see the next level of ingenuity when it comes to technology and how it affects our home designs. With Amazon’s Echo dot, Alexa and Google Home units we are now open to many possibilities of listening to our favorite music on a voice command in addition to requesting our wireless devices to dim the lights, turn on televisions or access data to keep us on track for our daily schedules.

There are many types of systems available and devices that will allow our home to become, what we thought of as children, as the home of the future. Wireless networking systems can be set up for game consoles and computers, printers as well as many compatible devices within our homes. It is amazing to see all of the available options, which is in a continual growth pattern.

Many people opt for the wireless option when it comes to networking throughout the home. There are several different ways this can be established and the functionality and safety of systems will determine your choice for using a wireless gateway or choosing to stay hardwired to everything.

If you aren’t sold on the complete wireless networking home system, then adapt with a few smaller systems like Ring for your front door bell or a wireless home security system. In a world where it seems like knowledge is at our fingertips and hackers are on the rise it can be a tough decision to release the standard mode of home wiring to a new way of living. 

Wireless networking systems are designed to work off of multiple computers or devices allowing for a cleaner look, and less wires! Obviously many of the wireless devices we use today still have a power source plugged in somewhere but overall it is nice to have fewer cables running everywhere.

The time to discuss integrating a wireless networking system and adding home components within your new custom home is at the planning stage. As you find the floor plan you like, make notes of where you would like to add these features and have your builder review economical options for you and your family. You may not be aware of some of the options you could really benefit from, and your builder will be able to make suggestions for these desired features and available options.

As with any wireless system, you want to ensure you take good security measures to keep intruders out. Encryption, as well as utilizing other software can be a good option to consider.

To learn more about wireless networking options available for your new home visit us at

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Color Blocking the Garden

Stunning gradient of fresh blossoming flowers  from dark purple to pastel lavender colors. Top view of flowers at the florist shop: peonies, roses, tulips, carnations, ranunculus, flat lay

Gardens have certainly evolved over the past 50 years.  At one point the garden was simply a resource for food, and was related more to work, than to pleasure.  These days the garden is a form of relaxation and peace for many individuals that live an active life, or have a demanding job.  The garden is good medicine to many of us, with many benefits, from food to color.

In the large spectrum of gardens, one feature that is becoming more and more popular is color blocking, and color planning.  This is the placement of certain flowering plants so that as the flowers are in bloom a colorful splash of patterns and intentional design is noticed by any admirer.  Color blocking is placement of colors designed to compliment each other in close proximity, while adding other color blocks intermittent within the garden as enhancements.

Many gardens have been blocked to resemble a rainbow, or maybe even a flag.  A strategic placement of red, white and blue can make any outside garden adventure seem more patriotic.  Along with Color Blocking, people are using these flowers for natural pest repellents and for fragrance at certain areas within the year. 

Colorful Tulip Fields

These beautiful and bright colors usually attract an array of insects, including bees.  Having bees come to the garden should always be a goal of any good gardener because of their help with pollination, and insect control.  Wasp also come into the garden and helps protect against some of the unwanted pests.  Certain colors attract certain insects and animals. 

With Color Blocking people can strategically place these flowering plants so their entire planting season is colorful.  While one flower starts to fade with warm weather, another will be getting started.  As the warm weather flowers start to fade with cooler weather, even another can get started.  This helps keep the beauty of your garden alive and well through spring, summer and fall. 

colorfull tulips

When we choose to Color Block our garden we just need to make sure we plan things properly.  Some plants do not get along well with others, and some plants can even cause problems with the fruit and veggies within the garden (if there are any).  By doing a little homework, and placing these plants at the right place, we will set ourselves up to enjoy a beautiful garden all season long.

To learn more about custom homes and how you can incorporate color blocking into your outdoor gardens visit us at

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Black & White: A Classic Return

White and black bathroom

Have you ever been in a Neoclassical home and enjoyed the open kitchen design and diner style checkered black and white flooring? This is a classic look and as we see more and more people looking to dress up their home interior, the black and white combination is on the rise.

Designing with black and white throughout your home or in themed areas of your home will bring a unique flair to the style you are creating in your new home.

Black and white kitchen design

Modern electric design

Obviously the floor tiles add a solid foundation to a kitchen or other room, you can also choose this scheme in a complementary kitchen design, mix-matching cabinets and bringing in a custom marble or black granite countertop.

Modern minimalism style kitchen and drawing room interior in monochrome

Monochrome living room with wood and grey tiling accents

Comfortable marriage bed

In your main living space you might consider painting your custom built-ins black and let the fire place mantles pop with a matte white finish.  Another nice look is adding a dark stain or black paint to stair treads and painting the risers white.  If these options seem to bold for your style, you can always decorate with black and white home décor like lamps, vases and other decorative accents to bring in this classic flair.

Cozy living room

Elegant bed and lamp

King-size bed between skateboard and plant

Popular selections for wall finishes include painted black and white vertical stripes or custom damask velvet wallpaper which adds an elegant look to your powder room or accent wall in a room you want to dress up; add a decorative chandelier with dangling crystals for the final touch!

If you have decorative columns lining your foyer or dining room, you could incorporate this style to highlight these areas within your home by dressing up white columns with capitals or painting columns solid black.

Another great way to show off this combination is on the exterior of the home. Using a white wood mold brick with black trim and black gutters makes for a clean and classic look. Or design your pergola to feature a black stained wood and vintage strand lights.  Elle Décor and are a few of the interior design sites you can see some of these classic black and white combinations.

Find the perfect floor plan to incorporate your black and white décor by visiting

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Pet Solutions Built Into Your Home

Man and his dog doing renovation work at home

It seems as though our pets have increasingly become more a part of our life than ever before. Years ago many families had their little furry friends, but didn’t seem to engage as much as many of us do these days. We buy clothes for them, we try to make sure we give them the best food, designer food bowls, and even include them in family portraits sometimes.

With this new found love of pets, many have also started thinking about everyday solutions that make this relationship a little more convenient, and a lot less work. A home is a sanctuary for us, and for our pets. We are moving more and more toward practical ways to make the everyday routine a little more fun, and enjoyable. This includes cat walks, integrated wall aquariums, moisture balanced herpetariums, etc.

Among all of the new found inclusions being added to our homes, there are many items we can implement into construction and design that will offer benefits for years to come. One thing we recommend for people with k9 friends would be a pet wash station. This may sound like a complicated feature, but it may just consist of a hot and cold exterior hose bib, and a gravel bed or concrete pad so the wash spot doesn’t get muddy.

Dog and cat doors are also becoming more popular these days.  This gives our friends a way to go out to stretch their legs, or take a bathroom break without the necessary human assistant.  These doors have been improved greatly over the last few years, and come in many sizes, with many features to choose from. During construction of your new home you may also decide to strategically place interior doors so different zones of the home can be closed off to your pet.

Cute ginger cat siting on window sill and waiting for something. Fluffy pet looks in window.

For the cat loving family, it has become more popular to include a proper cat habitat when building your new home.  This could include real catwalks high on the walls, or even on plant ledges, so that our feline friends can navigate from room to room at a higher elevation, while avoiding any ground situations with any other pets that may be in the house. The catwalks can lead to a concealed litter box, using void areas below the stairs, or maybe even on an attic wall. This helps hide the litter box, while keeping it fully accessible by our cats. A simple inclusion that all cats love are window seats, allowing them to lay at the window sill and look out over the property, while in the interior safety of the home.

One of the more extravagant construction considerations regarding pets has to be a moisture balanced and separate heating zone used as a herpetarium. This type of area is usually the size of a closet, and may include a glass door, and additional interior window for easy viewing of the reptile living within. These rooms not only stay at the proper humidity, they also include heat lighting, and misters to add comfort to the scaly inhabitants. 

In short, the day of the turtle box and dog pen may be numbered, as new ideas flow into the construction stages of our new homes. With smart wired doggie areas, automatic gates, auto feeders and fresh water stations our life is becoming easier, so the time we have with our pets may become more enjoyable.

As you plan your custom home, consider what options you may want to include for your pets and visit us at to learn more about these special areas within your home design.

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Outdoor Play Areas For All Ages

Designing your custom home can be a fun experience, yes there are many things you will consider and reconsider, especially when it comes to making sure everything you want to have within your home can fit into your budget, but you are sure to enjoy the process. When you consider the options available don’t forget to overlook the outdoor living spaces of your home. We live and enjoy the inside of our homes on a daily basis, but what about the outside areas we occasionally enjoy throughout the year?

Boys by tree house

Think about all of the possibilities when it comes to creating outdoor play areas for both the young and young at heart! Most every child dreams of having a tree house or play house where they can let their imagination run wild and enjoy being a kid. Tree houses can be as custom as you want them, possibly adding a rock wall entrance and a zip-line exit or transfer from multiple tree houses or play areas for kids. 

Multi Generation Family Playing Volleyball In Garden

A pool is still a classic outdoor fun area bringing much enjoyment to all ages for many years, but think about your pool parties, who will be there, and what will the kids, who may not swim, do to entertain themselves? Why not consider creating a shaded play area with horseshoes and rope or tire swings and adjacent to this area you may develop a sand filled volleyball court.

Single father wit his children. Caucasian family playing basketball together. Single father spending time with his children.

Tennis and basketball are also fun outdoor play areas and while many people don’t consider adding these full size courts to their outdoor play areas, you have several options to create a fun miniature version, which allows for both sports to be enjoyed on the same court.

The best friends playing together

For younger children you can’t go wrong with swings, slides and customized playground equipment.  To encourage family style fun interaction consider options like a miniature golf area, a Frisbee golf course, archery trail or soccer goals for those who love to get out and kick the ball around.

Obviously the size of your lot or land is going to determine the amount of outdoor play area you can incorporate within your overall home plan.  Adults and children alike will love spending more time outdoors engaging in activities they can do together and create lasting memories for many years to come.

While planning your home, make sure to explore all of the opportunities for outdoor play areas for all ages and create an outdoor living space people will be talking about!

To learn more about your custom home and how you can incorporate a fun outdoor play area and outdoor living space visit us at

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The Millennial’s Home Office

Home office interior

The home office has changed so much over time.  Think about some of the early scholars from the 17th century and how their offices, which were lit by candlelight, were filled with scrolls, maps and old books, strange lab equipment all within dark gloomy environments.

In the 20th century a more natural lighted office, with organized filing systems, built-in bookcases, tv niches and desktop computers adorned the everyday home office.

Like many cultural shifts the millennials are responsible for bringing about a new idea of what the home office means.  First of all more and more people are working from home to balance the work-life challenge.

White living room with sofa

Technology and simplicity are the central focal points when it comes to creating the millennial’s home office.  In addition to having a relaxed overall feel, instead of a classically designed wood desk you may find a contemporary style simple line desk topped with a laptop, wireless headphones and a comfy ergonomically designed seat to pull up in.  In addition to the simplicity of this high tech home office, you may also find features like built in surround sound and a large wall mounted monitor to hold go-to meetings online with other entrepreneurs across the globe. 

Study area in teenager room

These casual spaces are filled with artwork designed to drive creativity and at the same time create a work environment that is relaxing.  Other millennial home offices are designed to incorporate workshop space to blend the creative “workable” space with their need for comfort and technology.  These spaces may include workshop style tables, couches, whiteboards and for many, an organized craft-able space to compliment an etsy or online shop space.

Green space including indoor plants, natural light and plenty of room for the treadmill designed to hold your laptop are other features this young group of entrepreneurs are incorporating into their home designs.

Creative workplace side

Geometric carpet in multifuncional workspace

When it comes to planning your home and creating a space that will give you the work-life balance you are looking for, make sure to think about what defines you and your business and the environment you want to create in order to make a lasting impression or space surely to promote ingenuity and function!

For more information on home plans that have custom home offices visit us at

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Understanding Flood Zones

Flooded street

With all the flooding we have encountered over the last few years, many of us have become much more conscientious of flood zone categories. Some of the most beautiful and sought-after land in the world is included in some kind of flood zone. As you search for the perfect spot to build your new custom home it’s important to be aware of flood zones and how this may affect your home investment.

There are many types of flood zones, and there is no reason to be scared of these zones as long as you understand what it means. Most of us actually live in some kind of flood zone.

The 100-year flood zone is a zone of land that has been attached to a high likelihood of flooding about every 100 years, which defines the chance per year of flooding. This type of zone uses historical data, along with land modifications to determine the chances of a flood in the area. In this particular zone, it just means the ground could become saturated for an extended period of time at some point, but probably not very often.  In these flood zones it is important to comply with the recommended finish floor elevation requirements to ensure minimum home damage if a flood should occur. Otherwise, enjoy your new investment and know that there may never be a problem with flooding in the near, or even in the distant future.

Another type of flood zone is a Coastal flood zone. This is a zone of land associated with a high likelihood of flooding when a storm surge occurs as a result of a tropical depression, or hurricane. These flood zones also include a finished floor elevation, which is the elevation at which they do not anticipate flooding, based on historical and drainage data for the area. In a Coastal flood zone some of the finished floor elevations can be pretty high. A good bit of engineering and design may be required to ensure the final product is suitable, and meets all requirements, not only for water but also for wind in many cases.

In summary, a flood zone sounds like a scary word, but the truth remains it is only a descriptive word to help us understand the building requirements for the area. This helps keep your home investment safe, and helps to ensure your investment of home ownership is protected for years to come. All in all, no area is 100% secure when it comes to water, wind or seismic conditions. When building a home it’s important to remove as much risk as possible, and by better understanding flood zones and how they relate to your property you are sure to have some peace of mind as you enjoy your new home. To learn more about flood zones and how it may affect your new custom built home, visit us at

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Storage Unit: To Have or Have Not

Storage units in a self storage facility at outdoor

As the amount of baby boomers retiring is growing and more and more millennials are branching out creating a new way of life, escaping the traditional trend of passing furniture and heirlooms from generation to generation – the question arises – what to do with all of this stuff?

Our society as a whole is in a lifestyle shift and although the idea of not hoarding multiple tables and sets of china is not a typical concern of people in their 50s and above, the younger generation is creating an influx of storage units and their desire to be utilized on a fast whim.  The reality is the younger generation is choosing to live more freely and not be bound by stuff.  This presents a question as you get ready to move your parents into assisted living or determining what to do with your parents furnishings as they choose to downsize.  Do you choose to get a storage unit or not?

Storage units were originally designed to be used as a temporary means to “store” items between moves or for shorter periods of time.  For many families the months and sometimes years of storage payments made almost don’t make sense when it comes to comparing the value of items being stored with the cost of long time storage.

If you are in the process of building a custom home, you may want to consider building a storage space within your garage area, added expandable bonus space in attic areas within your home or a detached storage unit.  The cost of long term storage units can be just that – costly!  So instead of throwing money away, plan your home design to include potential storage space for items you may encounter.

The multi-generational way of life is a reality these days, three generations of families living among each other at different stages of their lives and this situation can incur a reason to store practical items.

Before you choose to use a storage unit or determine if adding storage space to your floor plan is practical ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you need all of the items you are wanting to store?
  2. How long do you intend to store these items?
  3. Do these items need to be in conditioned storage space?
  4. Do you have a plan to retrieve the items out of storage?

The last thing you want to experience is paying for a storage unit for a lengthy period only to discover you really didn’t need the items or uncover the items were damaged due to not being in conditioned space, as is the case with artwork or invasive animals nesting in your stored items.  The other reality you do not want to face is realizing 2 years of payments has gone by and you still don’t have a plan to recover your stored items.  Take time to review your options and surely your decision to store or not store will meet your expectations and not put a dent in your budget. To discuss storage options you may want to consider for your new custom built home, visit us at

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