Last-minute DIY gift idea

Hello friends! I hope you are enjoying this wonderful Christmas season. We are, for sure, although I wish (as usual) I was a little more prepared.

Today I wanted to share with you a quick, easy and inexpensive holiday gift you still have time to whip up for the folks on your list. šŸ˜‰

You can knock about 10 of these out in less than 3 hours.

Step 1: Order 1-hour prints from Walmart.com.

You can pick up a copy of the free printable I used here. I also like to browse Pinterest for “Free holiday printables.” I chose 4×5.3″ prints at about 6 cents apiece. I rounded the edges of each print with scissors.

Step 2: Find a scrap board to use for the backs of the signs.

I chose these 2×6″ scrap boards from my garden shed.

Step 3: Cut 2×6″ boards to length on a miter saw.

This size is perfect because you don’t have to rip off any of the width. You only need to cut the pieces length-wise.

I cut my pieces about 6.5 inches long. (My prints were 4×5.3″ – or true digital size.) After cutting, I cleaned off the boards really well to prepare them for stain.

Step 4: Stain the pieces.

I chose VarathaneĀ® Wood Stain in Briarsmoke.* I like to brush stain on and allow it to soak in for a good two minutes before wiping any excess off. It creates a more uniform, rich color.

Step 5: Sand the edges of each piece.

This will give the blocks a weathered appearance and smooth any rough edges. I used an orbital sander for this step to help speed things along.

Step 6: Adhere the prints to the wood blocks using Mod PodgeĀ® matte water-based sealer.Ā 

This part always makes me nervous, but the sealer dries clear. I promise. šŸ˜‰

Done! The wood plaques stand up nicely on their own, making them cute decorations for window sills and tabletops at Christmastime.

Have you DIYed any gifts this holiday season? I’d love for you to share your project(s) in a comment.

* Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.Ā If you click on a link provided and make a purchase through Amazon using my affiliation, I may receive compensation from Amazon. It does not cost you any more to purchase products using affiliate links. This blog is independently owned by me, and the opinions expressed here are my own. Thanks for supporting the quality content provided here through your readership and the use of affiliate links.Ā Ā 

10 steps for buying the right home

As a real estate agent, I find a lot of clientsĀ are seeking information to help explain and simplify the home buying process. So today, I thought I’d offer some insight on how the experience typically flows from start to closing, including some tips to help make things go as smoothly as possible.

1. Decide on a realistic amount to spend.

Years ago, (I won’t mention exactly how many years) šŸ˜‰ a wise college math teacher of mine recommended spending no more than 2.5x your annual salary on aĀ home. It’s a rule of thumb my husband and I have stuck to throughout the years, and it’s kept us from overextending ourselves financially.

Source

Dave Ramsey also has some conservative recommendations and a great tool to help you determine how much house you can afford. Check that out here.Ā And, of course, speaking with a loan officer at your favorite lending institution will also provide good insight on how much mortgage you qualify for and what loan terms are available to you.

Determining a ceiling price you’re willing to pay for a home will help you avoid disappointment by getting your heart set on something you can’t finance.Ā It will also put you in the best position to close without complications.

2. Find the home that fits your family best.

When deciding what homes you want to look at, first determine your non-negotiables and communicate those to your real estate agent.

For example, what are the minimum number of bedrooms and bathrooms you will accept? What area/school district do you want to live in? Is a garage or carport a must? Do you require a large yard or a certain amount of acreage? Are you willing to do some work to fix up the place, or do you want a modernized, turnkey home? If you are willing to do some work, are you comfortable with only cosmetic updates, or do you have the construction savvy to tackleĀ more extensive renovations?

Our Calvin flip – Affordable and modernized

Separating your needs from your wants will help you and your real estate agent clarify and narrow the search to only the best contenders.

3. Present an offer to the seller with earnest money down.

After you settle on the exact place you want to buy, this is the time to really lean on your real estate agent for help. He/she should be able to work with you to determine a fair price to offer for the property. This number should be based on quality research, which mayĀ include a comparable market analysis of sales of similar properties in the area; a comprehensive look at the property and the seller’s property disclosure information to determine what aspects are working for and against the property; the number of days the property has been on the market; and other showings/interest in the property by potential buyers.

Once you (the buyer) decide what you want to offer for the home – and the specific terms of that offer – your agent will draw up a Standard Agreement for the Sale of Real Estate. Your agent should make recommendations as to what might strengthen/weaken the offer you’re submitting. You will need to look over and initial/sign many pages of documents. This is also the time to establish what inspections you’d like done on the property. Any inspections you choose to have done will be at your (the buyer’s) expense.

Earnest money down – What you should know

You will likely want to provide an earnest money deposit at this point as well, which your agent will deliver to the broker to be held in an escrow – or trust – account until closing. In our local area, $500 or $1,000 of earnest money is a common amount, but this number is determined by you (the buyer) and can affect the strength of your offer. The purpose of this money is to let the seller know that you are serious, or earnest, about your intentions to purchase the home. After all, the seller is going to take the property off the market so you can purchase it. If the sale is completed, you (the buyer) will receive this money back at closing, in the form of a credit toward the purchase price.

4. Agree on a price and put the property under contract.

When a price is agreed on by both buyer and seller and reflected in a sales agreement signed by all parties, the property goes “under contract,” which means the seller’s agent takes it off the market and all parties involvedĀ begin moving toward a successful closing, typically within 30-60 days.

5. Secure mortgage financing and have any necessary inspections scheduled.

If you need to borrow money to purchase your new home, now is the time to obtain a mortgage financing commitment from a qualified lender. Schedule an appointment and ask what options are available. You should always seek the best rate and terms, but bear in mind that when you apply forĀ a loan, typically credit approval is required, which may slightly negatively affect your credit score. So shop around, but do so cautiously.

Once you settle on a financing product, your loan officer will explain what will be needed to secure the loan. This often involves certain mandatory inspections (wood-destroying insect inspection, for example) and an appraisal to determine fair market value.

Source

Your lender and/or real estate agent can help schedule and ensure all necessary inspections are completed on the property prior to closing.

6. Review inspection results and determine any necessary courses of action.

Each inspection done on the property should result in a report made available to you (the buyer), the seller and their respective agents. This is vitalĀ information to review, as significant issues that arise may require remediationĀ by the seller; may affect the availability of mortgage funding for you (the buyer); may affect the agreed-upon sales price; or may even cause the deal to fall apart altogether.

7. Find an attorney to represent you in the buying/closing process.

A real estate attorney and/or title closing company should help you in the title search process and help provide peace of mind and a legal safeguard so that, when you buy a property, you can feel comfortable that no one else will place claims against the property down the road. A title search will be performed to make sure there are no clouds on the title (third-party claims to a property that could call into question or invalidate your ownership of it). If there are, these problems will need to be resolved before the property becomes yours. A title search and title insurance policy on the property will be important – and often required – elements needed before you can close on the house.

8. Do a final walk through of the property.

Prior to closing, you should walk through the property one last time. This is something your realtor can set up for you. You’ll want to make sure no damage has occurred, and that nothing included in the sale has been removed. If the seller was supposedĀ to make repairs, this is the time to ensure they were completed properly. I recommend scheduling a final walk through several days prior to closing so that, if there are discrepancies, there’s a window of opportunity to correct them.

9. Sign the Papers

Obviously, one of the most critical steps to closing is signing the paperwork. No kidding, there will likely be at least 100 pages. Although you may feel pressured by the people present who are waiting for you to sign, read these documents carefully and make sure you’re comfortable with the details. Be sure to ask any questions; don’t be intimidated. The professionals in the room are equipped to answer questionsĀ for you and certainly aren’t expecting you to be an expert in real estate transactions.

In particular, make sure the interest rate is correct and that there is no prepayment penalty for paying off yourĀ mortgage early. Compare your closing costs to theĀ good faith estimateĀ you were given at the beginning of the process.

10. Get the keys and move into your new home!

It may seem like the closing process is a lot of work, but perhaps the toughest part is the waiting. Most of the time, you’ll just be sitting on your hands, waiting for someone else involved in the transaction to accomplish their responsibilities. Try to find something enjoyable to distract you while you wait. Or better yet, get all your belongings and affairs in order, so you’re well prepared to make the big move! šŸ™‚

Note: If you are thinking about buying or selling a home, a good realtor can be a huge help! If you live in the Huntingdon County area, Pa., I would be thrilled to help you. I’m with Schrack RealtyĀ at 615 Washington Street, Huntingdon, Pa. You can reach me by leaving a comment on this post, filling out the contact form on this website, or calling the office at 814-643-6000. Just ask for Susan. Happy house hunting!

Disclosure: Any tips, information or advice contained in this post is the result of my own research and opinions. Please consult an attorney for legal guidance concerning your specific home sale or purchase.Ā 

Spring decor: DIY candle holder, cheese tray and more

Hello, friends. I don’t know about you, but I am ready for spring!

Today I thought I’d share a few thrifty spring decor projects anyone can tackle in one afternoon. (This is part of the Creator’s Studio Blogger Challenge. You also have a chance to win! By ā€˜likingā€™ your favorite submission – ooh, I hope it’s mine šŸ˜‰ you’ll be entered to win a package of the same 8 Rust-OleumĀ® products bloggers received. Voting is open now until February 22, at 5 pm CST.)

Upcycled-Rust-Oleum-decor

These projects are derived mostly from this junk pile inĀ my backyard:

Wood-pile-

Yes, when shopping for elegant dining room decor, what better place to start than the garbage heap? šŸ˜‰

DIY candle holder

The first piece I snatched from the pile was a block of wood, a leftover hunk from one of our porch posts, I believe.

Forstner-bit-and-block

I used my 1.5″ forstner drill bit to cut three holes in the top. Then I sanded the whole piece really well. (Note: As a safety precaution, use a respirator mask and work outdoors when cutting or sanding pressure-treated lumber. More info. here.)

I gave the piece two coats of VarathaneĀ® stain, first with Bleached Blue, then Briarsmoke.

Varathane-wood-stain-briarwood

After the stain dried, I applied the Royal Design Studio Springtime in Paris Stencil, using the Pearl Oyster Stencil Creme, to the front and back of the wood block.

DIY-candleholder-Royal-Design-Studio

Finally, IĀ filled the holes with votive holders and tealights. Done!

DIY-wood-stenciled-candleholder

DIY cheese tray

For my next project, I began with a piece of plywood, which I cut into about a 12″x10″ cutting board. I sanded it really well, including rounding the corners.

Plywood-cutting-boardI sprayed the board with a coat of Rust-Oleum Chalkboard Spray paint.

Rustoleum chalkboard spray

Courtesy photo

After that dried, I coated the piece with a few layers of food-safe mineral oil. Finally, I added chalk labels and cheese. Voila! A trendy cheese tray.

Chalkboard-cheese-tray

Rust-Oleum-Chalkboard-Paint-decor

Stenciled-candleholder

Spring centerpiece

For my final spring decor project for the dining room, I began with a few dusty rattan balls I found in the basement.

Rustoleum-mirror-effect

I gave them a coat of either Rust-OleumĀ Mirror Effect (Gold) or Specialty Metallic (Copper) spray paint.

I also created my own moss balls by using spray adhesive to stick faux Spanish Moss onto craft foam balls. All materials again were found in my treasure trove of a basement. šŸ˜‰

DIY-moss-ballsI added a coat of Gloss Spring Green, followed by a light coat of Metallic Dark Copper spray paint.

DIY-Rustoleum-moss-balls

I displayed the pieces in a wire basket, creating the perfect spring centerpiece for my dining room table.

Tabletop-moss-balls

What do you think of my upcycled spring decor?

Dining-room-spring-decor

Have you DIYed anything spring yet? I’d love for you to leave a comment and tell me about your project.

Disclosure:Ā Iā€™m thrilled to help spread the word about Rust-Oleum products. I was provided the products featured in this post at no charge. As always, all thoughts, opinionsĀ andĀ projects are 100 percent my own. Ā