Bathroom design depends on a lot of things: the materials used, the color scheme, and, of course, the overall layout. (No hard-to-reach toilet paper rolls, please!)

But sometimes, what makes or breaks a bathroom all depends on one of our favorite materials—tile. This week, we searched far and wide on Instagram to find the absolute best, most inspiring looks that are, you guessed it, positively decked out in tile.

Whether you’re looking for a mood board for your upcoming bathroom remodel or just seeking some fresh inspiration for your design-obsessed Pinterest, these five looks are top of their class. Here are five times tile was anything but boring—and absolutely overtook bathroom design.

1. Green subway tiles

For a daring foray into tiling that will instantly define the vibe in your bathroom (or create a memorable guest bathroom), check out this glossy green subway tile look from @breezegiannasio.

“This is no ordinary subway tile,” says Megan Nelson of Nest with the Nelsons. “I’m a sucker for adding a little pop of green in any design. These tiles totally rule the show, while keeping this bathroom lively and upbeat without going over the top—green and serene!”

Get the look: Go for verdant vibes with this Antic Verde ceramic subway tile.

2. Ombre rose backsplash

Another color-infused look we love when it comes to tiling that’s anything but boring is this ombre pink marble backsplash from @claire.totman.designs. The ombre fad may have faded, but this design shows us just why (and how) it’s making a comeback.

“Ombre got far too trendy and unpolished with cheap peel-and-stick wall murals,” says Devin Shaffer of Decorilla. “When you scale down the effect and make it less obvious—like with these ombre tiles applied in a herringbone pattern—it becomes more stately and sophisticated.”

Get the look: Create a vanity look that adds a classic edge to the ombre trend by opting for a backsplash in Color One Terra Blend cement and lava stone tiles.

3. Big-check floors

Speaking of stately bathroom design, it doesn’t get any more traditional (or refined) than a big-check tile floor like this one from @jefftrotterdesign.

“Tiles keep getting bigger and bigger, and I fully support that,” says Shaffer. “The larger the tile, the fewer grout lines you have, which looks cleaner and more architectural. This look is here to stay: scaled-up classic black and white checkered patterns with super high-end materials.”

Get the look: Go big or go home with a few boxes of Affinity tile.

4. Art deco floor tiles

When you want to bring the class and the funk, look no further than this art deco-inspired floor tile from @designerfloors.

“Anyone else hear the angels singing when they see this bathroom?” asks Nelson. “Art deco meets extreme glam to bring a totally luxurious experience in this primary suite. The movement of the tile paired with the luxe look of the marble is the icing on the cake.”

The best part about this look? It works equally well when paired with minimalist or maximalist bathroom decor.

Get the look: Infuse your bathroom with some heavenly magic with this VZAG Nero black, gold, and white marble mosaic tile.

5. Floor-to-ceiling neutrals

Who says neutrals mean boring? This all-over neutral tile look from @co_architecture_au is anything but dull.

“When the same finishes are used both on the floor and walls, you’ll feel far more in control of the cleanliness of your bathroom,” says Shaffer. “And what’s even better is that neutrals complement nearly all metallics used on hardware—which allows for subtle or bold selections.”

Get the look: Keep a clean (and stylish) bathroom with this Easton Summit handmade clay tile.


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Keeping your home safe and secure for years can often seem overwhelming. A home safety checklist can be useful for those looking to keep their homes protected and retain their value.

A home safety checklist is a list of tasks to help ensure the safety and security of your home. It’s important for homeowners to identify safety hazards, reduce risks, and flag any necessary repairs.

Home safety tips will largely depend on the home itself, the occupants, and its location. Identifying broad areas that could be useful for your home safety checklist is the first step. You can add items specific to your home depending on what is needed.

A home safety checklist should cover fire safety, electric safety, home security, first-aid, child safety, senior safety, and outdoor safety.

Fire Safety

Fire safety is essential in helping homeowners identify potential hazards and mitigate risks. Fires can cause serious damage to property and threaten the safety and well-being of those living in the home.

Fire safety measures include:

  • Regularly check smoke alarms
  • Check fire extinguishers
  • Identify potential fire hazards
  • Install and maintain sprinklers
  • Place barriers around fireplaces
  • Install fire-resistant materials in the home, including windows, doors, and roofing materials
  • Check electrical systems and appliances, being careful not to overload electrical outlets

Electrical Safety

Another essential part of the home safety checklist is electrical safety. Faulty wiring and electrical systems can wreak havoc on a home. They can seriously threaten those living in the house and the house itself. Having electrical safety as part of your home safety checklist can protect you and your home from harm.

  • Check outlets, electrical cords, and appliances for damage such as frayed wires and damaged cables. Consider items such as water heaters, stovetops, and space heaters.
  • Check smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers.
  • Install ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in areas where there is water. GFCIs can prevent electrical shocks in wet or damp conditions.
  • Have your home inspected and cleared for electrical safety against building codes and safety standards.

Home Security

Keeping your home secure isn’t just about what happens inside the house but what is happening outside your home. Keeping your home safe from burglaries, thefts, and home intrusions is vital. Your home security checklist should include:

  • Check locks to make sure they are functioning and not easily tampered with.
  • Install and maintain security systems, including cameras, alarms, and motion detectors around the perimeter of the home.
  • Keep entry points well-lit with appropriate and adequate lighting.

First-Aid and Emergency Safety

First aid and emergency preparedness are crucial components of any homeowner’s safety plan to keep occupants in the home protected. Have items on hand to treat injuries before emergency services arrive.

  • Create an escape plan in case of home emergencies.
  • Keep emergency contact information at hand, such as emergency services, poison control, family members, and neighbors.
  • Keep first-aid items in the home to treat minor injuries, such as bandages, gauze pads, antiseptic wipes, and ointments.
  • Stock up on emergency supplies in case of natural disasters and power outages. Consider items such as flashlights, batteries, a portable radio, and a supply of food and water.

Child Safety

A large part of caring for children is keeping their home safe. Children have unique needs, and your home safety checklist should reflect that. You’ll need to consider what items to keep out of reach of children so that they can stay safe, including:

  • Secure cabinets and drawers with safety latches and childproof locks. Prioritize those that store items like cleaning products and kitchen utensils.
  • Install window guards, childproof locks, doorknob covers on doors, and safety gates at the tops and bottoms of stairways.
  • Remove tripping hazards such as loose rugs or exposed wires, and place covers on unused electrical outlets.
  • Keep dangerous items such as sharp objects or cleaning supplies away from reach.
  • Keep a first-aid kit ready and available.

Senior Safety

If you or a relative are seniors, there are special considerations you’ll want when it comes to home safety. Consider these additions to your home, including:

  • Install grab bars and no-sips mats in the bathroom and shower to prevent falls.
  • Remove obstacles such as rugs that could encourage tripping.
  • Keep stairways well-lit with secure handrails.

Outdoor Safety

Home safety should also include outdoor protection, which is where an outdoor safety checklist can come in handy. The amount of work will depend on the size of your yard and the types of amenities you have available. Your outdoor safety checklist should include:

  • Regularly inspect walkways, driveways, and outdoor stairs. Ensure they are in good condition and free of any cracks or other hazards.
  • Remove any tripping hazards such as toys, equipment, or decorative items to minimize risks of falling or accidents.
  • Keep outdoor areas well-lit by installing outdoor lighting fixtures or replacing bulbs in existing fixtures.
  • Secure outdoor furniture to prevent damage from severe weather.
  • If you store a spare key, consider getting a combination lock or avoid predictable hiding places.
  • Keep swimming pools covered when not in use.
  • Ensure outdoor play toys such as swing sets and trampolines are only used with permission and adult supervision.

Going through each section of the home safety checklist will assist in keeping your family safe throughout the year. Be sure to use this as a guide and add items that may be unique to your home and family situation.


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Wallpaper has come a long way. The latest modern patterns are hot among design trendsetters. So if you’re dying to deck your walls in some jazzy pattern, you’ll want to learn how to hang wallpaper. It’s not hard, but it’s also not something you want to wing without a little guidance first (especially since it can be difficult to remove wallpaper). So, heed this advice to get it right on your first whirl.

Tools and materials you’ll need:

  • Wallpaper (Measure your room first to see how much you need, then add about 10% extra for pattern matching.)
  • Tape measure
  • Scissors
  • Box cutter with extra blades
  • Sanding pad or paper
  • Wallpaper primer
  • Wallpaper paste
  • Roller to apply the paste
  • Large table covered in a plastic tablecloth or dropcloth

How to Hang Wallpaper: A DIY Guide for This Hot Home Trend

Step 1: Prep the walls

Check your walls to make sure they’re clean and smooth. Fill in holes, and if you find any roughness, sand it back. Next, prime the walls with a wallpaper primer. This is also called sizing the walls, although it has nothing to do with measuring. You do this the same way you apply paint, with an even coat of primer across the entire surface. If you can see through your wallpaper, use a white primer; if you’re hanging dark wallpaper, it helps to tint your primer the same color.

Step 2: Cut your wallpaper strips

Measure your walls from ceiling to base, then cut your first length of wallpaper plus 4 to 5 inches extra, so you can later trim the top and bottom to fit exactly. For solid or vertical-striped wallpaper, you can continue cutting strips the same way. If you’re working with a pattern, there’s another important step: Before you cut your next piece, align it with your first piece to make sure the pattern will match or continue when the strips are hung next to each other. You may need to trim a few inches before measuring out the next piece to make sure the pattern matches. Do the same for all of your lengths.

how to lay wallpaper align pattern
Align the pattern in the next strip of wallpaper.

(Mahones Wallpaper Shop/YouTube)

Also, odds are you will need to cut one skinnier strip of wallpaper to fit in one corner. If you can, plan to hang that sheet of trimmed wallpaper in a less conspicuous place, like behind the door, so it’s less noticeable. You will then start hanging the wallpaper starting from the opposite corner. Or, if you want your pattern to have a center focal point, you can start in the center and move toward the outer edges (which means you could end up with two skinny strips instead of one).

Step 3: Paste and book your paper

If you’re using unpasted paper, apply paste to the top half of your strip with a roller. Then fold the newly pasted paper over from the top to the midpoint, sticky sides together, taking care to not crease the fold. It will stick to itself, but it’s not hard to pull apart later. This is called “booking,” which allows the paste time to expand and get stickier before you place the strip on the wall (check your wallpaper label for recommended booking time, typically five to 15 minutes). Once the top half of your strip is booked, repeat the process for the bottom.

Once the paste is applied, fold the wallpaper over on itself so the sticky sides are together, which will easily come apart once you place the strip on the wall.

(Mahones Wallpaper Shop/YouTube)

“The paste will typically dry permanently in 24 to 48 hours, which gives you plenty of time to hang it and make any necessary changes,” says Kassin Adelman, founder and CEO of IDF Studio in San Francisco.

If all of this is already starting to sound messy and complicated, you have another option: “Buying a self-adhesive wallpaper will make your life much easier,” says Adelman. “There are so many great options like Joss & Main, or a removable version from Tempaper that isn’t permanent and can be used in rentals or rooms you may want to change more often.”

Step 4: Apply paper to the wall

Before you put your paper on the wall, remove any outlet and switch covers. (You should cut power while doing so, just to be safe.) You will be laying the paper over the outlets, then cutting them out later and placing the covers back on at the end.

Place your first strip flush to one corner of the wall with about an inch of overlap at the top (which you will trim off later). Once your paper is placed right, use your hands to press the sheet to the wall and smooth it from the top down.

“By starting at the top, you have gravity on your side, which makes the process easier,” says Adelman. By the time you reach the bottom, you should have an inch or two of extra paper to trim later.

Once the first strip is down, repeat the process with the next, making sure that your pattern aligns if that’s your goal.

Step 5: Cut to fit

Once all your wallpaper is in place, use your box cutter to carefully cut around any electrical outlets, as well as the extra paper off the top and bottom. Place the outlet and switch covers back on, and you should be in business!


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When you’re selling your home, there’s so much to do: find a Realtor®, do touch-ups, get that balky air conditioner fixed, look into staging, etc. It’s no wonder that sometimes things fall between the cracks. Big things. (We’re not pointing fingers!)

Our arsenal of experts—aka real estate agents who have worked with many home sellers—identify the to-do’s that sellers typically overlook. We promise you, these tasks are well worth the time it will take to complete them, which isn’t very long at all.

Heed this sound advice, and there’s a good chance selling your house won’t be nearly as stressful as everyone tells you it is.

1. Google your address

Not all sellers scour the internet to find out what’s being said about their property, but they should. Nearly all buyers—90%—search online during their hunt for a home, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

You should be aware of what your online listing looks like, since it will influence the kinds of concerns buyers will have, says Avery Boyce, a Realtor® with Compass Real Estate in Washington, DC.

“Is the site’s estimated value very different from your asking price? It might be because tax records have the wrong information about the number of bedrooms or bathrooms your house has, and this is easily fixed,” Boyce says.

There’s another factor to consider with cars constantly mapping our world. Google Maps’ street view of your property may not show improvements that you’ve made, so you’ll want to be sure to include those updates in your listing.

7 Important Things Home Sellers Often Forget To Do

2. Account for improvements and issues

“If you’ve owned your home for a while, make a list of all the problems you’ve solved while you’ve lived there,” says Boyce.

This could include chimney fires, water damage, or a flood in the basement. Whether you solved the problem or not, you should disclose this information to the buyer so you don’t wind up in a lawsuit after the sale.

Disclosing “invisible improvements” that you’ve made, like regrading or adding a French drain system, can also be a great source of comfort for buyers, adds Boyce.

“The same goes for sewer lines or tanks, radon remediation, or leaky skylights,” says Boyce.

3. Check your real estate agent’s references

An agent’s bad behavior or incompetence could cost you time, money, and peace of mind, so it’s well worth taking extra steps to find the best real estate agent for you. Ask friends for recommendations.

Check that the people you’re considering have a current real estate license—with no complaints filed against them. Meet with the agent, and reach out to a few of their references directly.

“Real estate agents should be happy to provide a number of references for a new client to call,” says Marianne Leonard Cashman, a Realtor with William Raveis Real Estate in Andover, MA. As far as talking to your friends about a real estate agent recommendation, here are some questions Cashman suggests asking:

  • Did you have confidence in your real estate agent?
  • Do you think he/she had good knowledge of the local market?
  • Did your agent communicate well and keep you informed during the entire transaction?
  • Do you think that he/she negotiated well on your behalf?
  • Did your agent have good vendors who could assist you?
  • Did your agent return calls/emails in a timely fashion?
  • Would you recommend this person? Why? (Or why not?)

4. Insist on social media marketing

You staged your home beautifully, picked a competitive price, and listed the property, but there’s something else you’ll need to prepare before you’re fully ready to sell: a social media marketing plan. Video tours, floor plans, and photo galleries promoted on Facebook and Instagram are must-do’s, advises Cashman.

“You want to make sure that your agent is using all avenues to attract the right buyer for your home,” she explains. “Make sure your home has a presence on your agent’s website, their agency’s website, and is promoted on various sites that will market the home and give information about open houses.”

5. Make sure the doorbell rings

Ah, attention to detail. It’s those little cosmetic repairs that could cost you your home sale. If buyers see that you can’t even be bothered to repair a busted doorbell, they’re automatically going to think about what else may need fixing and view the home negatively.

“First impressions make all the difference,” says Cashman. “A well-kept home, starting with the view from the curb, gives the perception that the seller has great pride in the home and has taken good care of it—which translates into less energy and costs for the buyer as they prepare to move in.”

6. Clean inside everything

Storage is a huge selling point for homes. So be warned: Buyers are going to poke around inside closets, drawers, cabinets, ovens, refrigerators, and even the dishwasher, whether they’re cleaned or not—so you’d better make sure they are clean.

“Spending the money on a service to deep-clean your home will come back to you at least 10 times in your sales price,” says Boyce.

Even if you’ve swept up and scrubbed all surfaces to a shine, you’re not done until dust, crumbs, and creepy crawlies are cleaned out from within the small spaces, too.

7. Clarify which items are not included

You don’t want a buyer to fall in love with your house because of the custom window treatments and then rescind their offer when they find out the curtains aren’t for sale.

“The law says that anything bolted to the wall or ceiling goes to the buyer unless specifically excluded in the contract,” says Boyce. “If you want to take your flat-screen TV, chandelier, or custom pot rack, be sure to label it as soon as the house goes on the market, so that buyers don’t bank on owning that item and wind up disappointed.”


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When the temperature tumbles and golden leaves fall, there’s a good chance your plumbing might start to give you some trouble. To get ahead of any plumbing issues, it’s a good idea to start taking some preventive measures before Old Man Winter knocks at your door.

“Fall is a great time to check for any plumbing damages and make any necessary repairs,” says Michael Green, vice president of operations for Benjamin Franklin Plumbing.

During the fall season, your home may suffer from water heater problems, clogged drainage, a stuck garbage disposal, or a frozen pipe. But to help you focus your maintenance efforts, here are a few of the more common plumbing problems you might see around your house.

6 Common Plumbing Problems That Could Plague You This Fall

1. Cluttered gutters

Nothing says fall like a pile of leaves. But you don’t want those leaves to settle into your home’s gutters.

“Full gutters can lead to a host of problems, including roof damage and foundation issues or cracks,” says Green.

To prevent these issues, grab your ladder and thick gloves and get to work clearing out those gutters. Make sure to take a bucket with a small shovel to remove debris and other gunk. Then, rinse the gutters with a hose and inspect them—along with downspouts—for damage or cracks.

2. Clogged cleanouts

The cleanout is found close to the home and provides access to plumbing through an outside pipe that typically sticks out of the ground.

“When the leaves fall, they can fall into the cleanout if the cap or cover is damaged or opened. These leaves can cause a backup of water flow, causing a plumbing issue,” says Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing.

Homeowners may require a professional camera inspection and drain snaking to ensure there’s no obstruction.

“You will also want to make sure the cleanout cap is not cracked or broken to avoid debris from entering the cleanout,” says James.

3. Unclean sump pump

The sump pump’s filter screen can collect debris in the fall, such as mud, leaves, and pebbles—which can lead to clogs, premature pump shut-off, or even standing water in the basement.

“A quick visual inspection should let you know whether or not the sump pump is working and if there’s a problem,” says Green. “Catching it early is crucial.”

The easiest way to determine if your sump pump is unclean is by slowly pouring a bucket of water into the sump pit. If it automatically starts up, everything’s fine. If not, it’s time to do some maintenance.

“Wipe the filter clean, unplug the sump pump, and carry it outside, along with the drain,” Green advises. “Disconnect the drain line, and use a hose to flush out any debris or clogs. Then, flush the entire unit with water.”

Clean the entire sump pit, and then put it back in. Then, pour a bucket of water into the pit to ensure the system is working.

“It’s best to do this before the winter snow sets in,” says Green.

4. Root intrusion

After a drought season, root intrusion can be a problem.

“The first heavy rain of the season can cause tree roots to grow and stretch out as they search for water,” says James. “These roots may penetrate cracks in plumbing pipes and block the water draining from the fixtures in the home as they flow to the main sewer line.”

If you have large trees on your property, you may need to call in a plumbing professional who can perform a camera inspection and drain snaking to remove the obstruction.

5. Small or hidden leaks

Did an especially rainy day cause a small leak in your living room? Don’t ignore it!

“It can be easy to write off small leaks in your home,” Green says, “but they can be dangerous. If there’s a hidden leak in the plumbing system, water could seep into areas with electric wiring, and wiring sparks could start a fire.”

Watch out for unexpectedly high water bills or discolored spots after a rainy day that may indicate a leak. If you do suspect you have a leak, call a plumber who can diagnose the problem.

6. Garden hose mishaps

It’s easy to forget to put away garden hoses in the hope of one last gasp of summer temps. But neglecting to put them away before temps dip could spell trouble.

“Make sure all garden hoses are detached, and if the outdoor spigots are not freeze-proof, protect them with at least a foam cover to avoid the potential of freezing, bursting, and flooding,” says James.


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Everybody makes mistakes, but a low credit score shouldn’t cost you your dreams of homeownership.

Even if your credit history prevents you from securing a traditional mortgage, there are many loan programs available for those with less-than-stellar credit. Here’s how to buy a house with bad credit, along with some tips to improve your credit score for the future.

What Is a Bad Credit Score?

Your credit score is a three-digit number that reflects your history of on-time bill payments, unpaid debt, and available credit. Your FICO score — named for the Fair Isaac Corporation — will range from 300 to 850, with higher numbers reflecting good credit.

According to Experian, “bad” credit is any score below 580, though the scores can be broken down as follows:

  • Exceptional: 800-850
  • Very Good: 740-799
  • Good: 670-739
  • Fair: 580-669
  • Poor: 300-579
A family laughing

Not sure where you fall on this list? It may be time to check your credit.

Each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) will provide you with a free annual credit report. Checking your report once per year will not affect your score, and it can show you what you need to work on in the future.

What Is the Lowest Credit Score to Buy a House?

Can you buy a home with bad credit? Absolutely, though your spending power and other factors will depend on your lender and loan program.

Most lenders expect a credit score of at least 620 for a conventional mortgage, but you can secure an FHA loan with a credit score as low as 500. Keep in mind, though, that the best interest rates and loan terms will still go to those with strong credit.

Why do credit scores matter so much? Mortgage lenders are looking for borrowers who can be expected to repay their loans in full. The lower your credit, the more risk the lender takes on by loaning you money. A higher interest rate is designed to mitigate that risk.

Still, it’s possible to purchase a house with bad credit, even if you’ve made some mistakes in the past. You’ll just need to find a lender who offers the right loan program for your needs and budget.

Loan Programs

CCM offers a broad selection of home financing products to make sure there is a solution for every lifestyle and personal situation.


Credit Scores for Mortgage Loan Types

The actual credit score requirements vary based on the mortgage loan type. Here are some of the most common types of mortgage loans, along with their credit requirements.

Conventional Loan Minimum Credit Score

Conventional loans (also called “traditional loans”) offer some of the best terms and interest rates. However, to qualify, you’ll typically need at least a 620 credit score.

With that being said, some lenders can help you buy a home if your score is lower than that. You can improve your chances by offering a higher down payment, for example, or by taking out a loan that’s significantly smaller than your loan amount.

Of course, buying a house with bad credit usually means a higher interest rate. While most buyers prefer a conventional loan due to its favorable rates and terms, buyers with weak credit may want to consider other loan options that offer a balance between eligibility requirements and loan terms.

USDA Loan Minimum Credit Score

USDA loans are backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Depending on the lender, you may need a credit score of 640 or better, though this can vary depending on other economic factors.

The advantage of USDA loans is that they don’t require any down payment or private mortgage insurance (PMI) payments. There is a required USDA loan guarantee fee that is 1% of the loan amount. The catch is that qualifying homes must be located in approved rural or suburban areas.

FHA Loan Minimum Credit Score

FHA loans are backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and can be ideal for those with less-than-stellar credit. An FHA loan can even be used with a 500 credit score, though some specific rates, down payment, and terms come into play.

For instance, if your credit score is 500-580, you’ll need to make at least a 10% down payment to secure an FHA loan; however, if your credit score is 580 or above, you can put down as little as 3.5%.

Just be aware that with FHA loans, you’ll have to pay for mortgage insurance premium (MIP), which will be rolled into your monthly mortgage premiums.

VA Loan Minimum Credit Score

Backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, VA loans are ideal for those looking for a home loan with no down payment requirement.

These loans are offered through private lenders, which means you might face credit score requirements.

As long as you’re a current or former member of the U.S. Military (or the spouse of one), you may be eligible for a VA loan with no down payment or PMI payments but there is a funding fee.

What Happens if You Can’t Qualify for a Mortgage Loan?

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t qualify for the first mortgage you apply for — buying a house with bad credit may take persistence and resourcefulness. If your credit score is below 600, you might want to look into specialized loan programs such as VA loans or FHA loans.

If your credit score is under 500, you may need to take some time to improve it before you’re financially ready to buy a home. While it’s never pleasant to see your dreams delayed, the good news is you’ll have more time to save for a down payment, which can improve your chances when buying a house with bad credit.

How to Improve Your Credit Score

Before you buy a house, you might want to check your credit score with at least one of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. This will at least let you know what kind of loan program you qualify for or show you areas where you can improve.

Improving your credit can take time, but it’s worth it. Here are some common ways to boost your credit and increase your chances of qualifying for a home loan.

Check for Errors

The fastest way to improve your credit is to check your credit report for errors.

Removing an error from your credit history can improve your score dramatically, though it can take a few months to take full effect. That’s why it’s smart to check for errors regularly so you can correct them right away.

Pay Your Bills on Time

Your payment history has a major impact on your credit score. Make it a point to pay your bills on time to avoid dings on your credit score. Automated payments and electronic reminders can ensure that you keep up with your payments and improve your score over time.

Keep an Eye on Your Available Credit

Even though you may be below your credit limit, your credit card balance can still lower your credit score. This is known as your “credit utilization ratio.” Once you exceed 25-30%, you can expect to see a dip in your credit.

For example, if you have a credit limit of $5,000, you’ll need to keep your balance below $1,500 to avoid hurting your credit.

Increase Your Credit Mix

Having multiple types of credit can improve your score. Paying both credit cards and car loans, for example, improves your credit mix, which accounts for 10% of your overall credit score.

Avoid Hard Credit Inquiries

When you apply for certain types of loans, the lender will perform a hard credit pull. Each time this happens, it can lower your overall credit score. Unfortunately, this is unavoidable when you’re seeking pre-approval on a mortgage. But by minimizing the total number of hard credit checks, you can avoid reductions in your credit.


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Warm weather usually brings out the barbecues, beach trips, and homebuyers in droves. But for this particular home shopping season, many buyers might feel like they’re on the fence.

Homebuyer ambivalence is high for good reason: On the one hand, buyers might be encouraged to hear that last year’s red-hot seller’s market, with its bidding wars and over-asking offers, has finally ebbed. On the other hand, mortgage rates are a full percentage point higher than last year, eating up potential savings. Combined with a bumpy economic forecast, it’s understandable that some homebuyers are hesitant to forge ahead.

“Currently, there are fewer buyers in the market because of rising interest rates and uncertainty in the market,” confirms Ralph DiBugnara, mortgage banker, real estate investor, and president of Home Qualified in New York City. Nonetheless, he points out that conditions have been improving for buyers, so right now is actually “a better time to buy than the [first half] of 2023.”® chief economist Danielle Hale agrees with this assessment, saying that while it’s by no means a buyer’s market, the state of real estate has shifted to a more “buyer-friendly direction.”

5 Solid Reasons To Buy a House Now, Despite High Rates—and 2 Reasons To Wait

Reasons to buy a house now

Ultimately, whether now is the right time for you to buy a home will boil down to a number of economic and personal factors. If you need help deciding, here are some reasons why it makes sense to buy a house now.

1. There are more homes for sale

Just a year earlier, the supply of housing was at such record lows that competition for the few houses out there was brutal. Since then, housing inventory has grown, with 50% more homes on the market today. Even better, the supply of homes for sale tends to hit its seasonal high point in May.

“Spring is typically the peak season for new listings, meaning there will be a larger selection of homes,” says Martin Boonzaayer, CEO of The Trusted Home Buyer in Phoenix. “This can increase the chances of finding a home that meets your needs and preferences.”

Keep in mind that while inventory is higher than last year, it’s still far below pre-COVID-19 levels, and many of these listings are stale, with fewer new sellers coming on the market.

The reason: According to a recent survey, 82% of potential home sellers feel “locked in” their current home due to a low mortgage rate.

Nonetheless, with plenty of homes for sale compared with a year earlier, buyers should have a relatively better shopping experience, particularly if they are willing to overlook a few flaws and drive a hard bargain.

2. Home prices may be heading south soon

Listing prices reached a record high of $449,000 last June, and while they’re still higher now than they were a year earlier, these numbers are poised to decline soon.

“The increase in inventory has been big enough to slow home price increases,” says Hale. Plus, buyers should take heart that listing prices are just a starting point, and sellers are willing to settle for less these days. In fact, the final sales price of homes has already declined annually in both March and April.

“Overall, home prices are trending lower,” agrees Rick Arvielo, co-founder and CEO of New American Funding, a privately owned mortgage company. “After the unprecedented increases in home pricing over the last two years, we are seeing the froth coming off some markets that saw home prices increase significantly. This is very market-specific, but for the most part, reasonable reductions are trending.”

Even lowballing, which would have been laughable a year earlier, could work with motivated sellers whose properties have been stuck on the market for a while, so make sure to check a home’s days on the market and negotiate accordingly.

3. Interest rates are poised to decline this year, too

Given the U.S. Federal Reserve isn’t expected to announce another significant interest rate hike anytime soon, many experts say that mortgage rates, like home prices, have likely reached their apex. So buyers should not worry too much that rates will rise higher.

“We’ve seen the highest mortgage rates we are likely to see for some time,” says Hale, who expects mortgage rates to stabilize in the short term, and then begin dropping by late summer and early fall. “I don’t think we’ll see a fast decline from here, but rather a gradual easing.”

“Mortgage interest rates are expected to hover at around 6% for 2023,” says Nick Ron, founder and CEO of House Buyers of America. That’s unless something dramatic happens with either inflation or the job market.

“When you consider that rates reached 16.63% in 1981, our current rates do not look bad,” adds Ron. “And if rates do fall several points, you can refinance.”

Eminlee Wang, a real estate agent with FlyHomes in Dallas, predicts that rates should stick somewhere between 6% and 7%, adding that many mortgage companies are making it easier to refinance in the future if and when rates drop.

“Many mortgage companies are meeting the moment with products that allow their customers to buy now and then refinance for free in the future,” she says.

Consumers should always do their research and make sure there are no hidden fees or timeline requirements to those refinancing deals, she advises.

4. Homes are taking longer to sell

In the past few years, homes in hot markets were selling so fast, buyers couldn’t even see the place before it was snapped up.

“During the pandemic, nearly one-third of new listings went into contract within hours or days,” recalls Wang.

But this whiplash pace has slowed considerably. In April 2022, homes spent 49 days on the market, which is 17 days longer than last year.

The reason for this slowdown: Everyone is waiting and hoping for either interest rates to drop or home prices to go down.

“This has meant that the limited number of homes which are on the market are sitting for longer,” says Wang.

This means buyers need no longer rush into a deal out of desperation, but can take their time to compare their options and negotiate a better deal.

“Buyers are more in the driver’s seat than they were just 12 to 18 months ago,” says Ron. “Demand is not what it was, so sellers are more likely to be flexible.”

5. It’s the right time for you and your family

Sometimes, the reasons you’re buying a house are out of your control. Perhaps you’re moving due to a job change or other extenuating circumstances. So while interest rates and high home prices are challenging affordability for many potential homebuyers, it’s important not to try too hard to time the market and let it dictate what you do, especially if moving makes sense for your life right now.

“The best time to buy or sell is specific to you and your needs,” says Ashley Farrell, a real estate agent with The Corcoran Group in Westhampton Beach, NY. “Evaluate your life and the trajectory of your next few chapters. For naysayers on high mortgage rates, those are temporary. Date the rate, and marry the house!”

“A good real estate agent and lender can help you figure out a strategy to lower your interest rate,” says Delaney Juarez, a real estate agent with Keller Williams City View in San Antonio, TX. “So don’t let that be a reason you put off a move that you really want or need to make.”

Reasons to hold off on buying a house

While there are some good reasons to jump into the housing market right now, there are also a few things to consider that might mean you’re better off waiting to buy a house.

1. You’re maxing out your budget

Inflation was still up 4.9% year over year in April, eating into homebuyers’ budgets. So if mortgage rates have you stretched thin financially, then it might be best to wait and allow mortgage rates to steady or even come down before buying a house.

“If interest rates have risen to a level that would strain your budget and make homeownership unaffordable, it might be wise to wait until rates become more favorable or until you can improve your financial situation,” says Chase Michels, real estate agent with The Michels Group Compass in Downers Grove, IL.

Since interest rates change so often, potential homebuyers can and should rate-test their budgets regularly by plugging their income and debts into an online home affordability calculator.

2. Your future is uncertain

The country is sitting in a relatively unpredictable economic situation at the moment, so if your own future is unclear and you don’t have to move, waiting might be the safer option—especially if you aren’t settled in your job or sure you plan to live in an area for more than a year or two.

“If you have the flexibility to wait and are not in immediate need of a home, you can take the time to save more money for a larger down payment, improve your credit score, or explore other neighborhoods or housing options that may become available in the future,” Michels says.


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With housing supply at historic lows, homebuyers are increasingly turning to new construction. But this option is not without its pros and cons.

A big pro is that new homes are often more affordable than existing homes. And on the con list, many buyers say they would prefer an older home with character. Complaints about new homes include bland builder-grade materials, limited color choices, and unremarkable finishes.

But fear not if you’re eyeing a new build.

“You have a blank canvas to create a design masterpiece, and you aren’t restricted by aged materials or poor choices from the past,” says Blake Sutton, president of Est Est Interior Design, a firm based in Scottsdale, AZ.

If your new-construction home is more cookie cutter than custom, consider these six ways to add the charm, warmth, and character it needs.

1. Go for wood tones

A newly built home doesn’t have to be a characterless box.

One easy way to add depth and warmth is with wood tones in the cabinetry and flooring. You may also consider adding wood beams or a wood-panel treatment to a ceiling or a wood mantel if you have a fireplace.

Just be sure the wood tones are right for the style of your home.

“The wood tones that are appropriate are drastically different and are dependent on the style of the home,” says Sutton.

For instance, darker wood tones are best for a Spanish-style home, while a modern beach house should have much whiter wood tones.

2. Add bold lighting fixtures

Large developments will tend to use the same light fixtures across all the new homes. That’s because ordering in bulk cuts costs and can help avoid possible supply chain issues early.

But if you purchase a newly built home and want to make it feel special, lighting is an inexpensive upgrade on the scale of after-purchase home improvements. And it can have a big impact.

“A great light fixture can bring a wow to a foyer or dining room,” says New York interior designer Vicente Wolf, whose specialty is luxe, modern interiors. “It can be the focal point that can make or break a room.”

3. Install interesting molding and trim

So what do older homes have that new homes don’t? Wood trim and molding.

If you’re handy, you can always add it yourself, or hire out the millwork if you’re not. Just be sure the trim you add is appropriate for the style of your home.

“It’s unlikely you will have crown molding in a new contemporary build, but you would in a traditional build,” says Sutton.

Molding should have a spare, streamlined profile in a modern home. Think thick, straight-edge baseboards devoid of frills painted in a nontraditional color.

“In a more modern space, color can go from silver leaf to a different tone,” explains Wolf. “Paint or stain adds richness to the space.”

If trim isn’t right for the look and feel of your home, but you want to add some dimension to a room, consider creating a paneled statement wall behind a bed, in a home office, or in a dining area. Pick a color that either sharply contrasts or completely blends into the room.

4. Go for eye-catching doors

Custom wooden entryway door
A custom wood entryway door adds charm.


Installing a custom door is a great way to add curb appeal to an otherwise plain Jane house. This home (above) is newly built, but the wood entry door and posts create a charming experience before you even step inside.

Changing interior doors can also have a big impact.

Raising all door heights, for example, will make rooms appear larger and ceilings taller because they draw the gaze upward. You can also play tricks with doors that seem almost hidden in their surroundings.

“I love flush doors that disappear, with no molding around them,” says Wolf. “It gives an architectural feel to the space.”

5. Upgrade with detailed hardware

antique brass door knob
Old houses have quality hardware, but you can upgrade yours.


One thing older homes have that resonates with homebuyers is antique hardware.

Luckily for new-home buyers, upgrading builder-grade door knobs can have a big visual and tactile impact.

“A beautiful doorknob connects with your hand, and you feel the weight and solid quality,” says Wolf. “Beautiful hardware adds a luxurious, custom quality to a room.”

And luxury doesn’t necessarily mean ornate. A growing trend is quiet luxury, which emphasizes quality touches.

6. Pick up antique pieces

If you are considering a home in a new development and imagining ways to make it look and feel unique, avoid purchasing matching furniture sets.

A few well-placed antiques add gravitas to modern decor, and it’s especially needed in a home in a new development.

“Bringing a sense of the past gives character, depth, and a less thematic look to a modern space,” says Wolf.

So, ensure your home reflects your taste by taking your time to fill it with the things you love.


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One of the first things home shoppers learn is that the price they see on real estate listings is nearly always negotiable. And that same flexibility exists when buying a newly built home, too, in the form of builder incentives.

Builder incentives are promotions offered by developers that, much like a coupon, cut the cost of purchasing property in that community. Incentives are increasingly common today to entice cash-strapped buyers to make an offer, yet these discounts aren’t always as simple as a straight price cut.

Here’s a guide to help homebuyers understand the various types of incentives, when and why they’re offered, and how to make the most of these deals today.

What are builder incentives, and when are they offered?

Many builder incentives are widely advertised on splashy billboards and online to capture the attention of buyers and reel them in. Examples might range from “For a limited time, get $5,000 in designer upgrades!” to “Purchase before X date, and we’ll pay all of your closing costs.”

“You will find these incentives explained on websites, social media, signs, and other places a builder might advertise to the public,” explains Kimberly Mackey, founder of New Homes Solutions and a sales and marketing management consultant specializing in residential homebuilding.

Homebuilders may offer incentives at any stage of the project’s development. Many happen at the initial launch to help generate buzz for a new community and get the first few residents on board. Incentives are also commonly offered near the end of a project when there are only a few homes left to sell, since builders might be eager to close the books.

Overall economic conditions that might slow home sales (such as high interest rates or a recession) might also spur builders to work harder to get buyers through their door. The type of incentive will vary based on what builders think will strike a chord with the target homebuyer at that time.

“For example, if the economy is struggling, lower interest rates and cash at close may help buyers qualify that would otherwise be unable to afford a particular community,” says Bob Seeman, vice president of sales, new homes at®. “If it’s a high-end community, then property upgrades are more likely to be a successful incentive.”

While many incentives are widely advertised, others are not and are discretionary. The only way buyers will know if this incentive exists is if they or their real estate agent asks for it.

“Occasionally, builders may have some wiggle room to provide to a buyer something like a refrigerator—new construction doesn’t always include one—or blinds, or something along those lines, to incentivize a buyer further to make a move during a specific time frame, like by the end of the month or quarter,” says Mackey. “If the builder has it, the builder’s sales representatives will know how to handle the question and they are generally happy to help the buyer as much as possible.”

How financial incentives with builders work

While builder incentives may be found as price cuts on the actual house, homebuyers may more commonly see offers to help reduce costs on the financing front, with builders offering to buy down the interest rate on the home loan or pay some or all closing costs.

One caveat to keep in mind, though, is that these deals are typically tied to financing through a builder’s preferred lender. Builders often work closely with certain lenders because they want to know that the loan will close without delay once the home is completed.

“It is expensive to carry a finished home, so the builder wants to get it off their books as soon as possible,” says Mackey.

While buyers can always bring in a lender of their own choosing, these borrowers will typically be forfeiting any builder financing incentives and may end up out more money at closing as a result.

“If the builder doesn’t pay this incentive, then the buyer could have to pay all the closing costs, which typically adds around 3% of the purchase price,” says Mackey. However, she also says it’s always smart to shop around and compare offers from several lenders or brokers, just to make sure the builder’s terms are truly the best deal you can get.

Homebuyers who do find better financing terms with an outside lender should be aware that if that loan isn’t ready to close at the specified time the builder is prepared to turn the home over, buyers could face closing delay penalties, which could be hundreds of dollars per day.

“With the builder’s lender, if they can’t close, the buyer would not be on the hook for those delay fees,” says Mackey.

Whether you end up using the builder’s lender or not, Mackey always recommends buyers read the fine print of any incentive they agree to, since it may contain small conditions that may be easy to overlook in the rush and excitement to close the deal.

“There may be a caveat to these incentives, such as a ‘must close by date’ that may not be in the buyer’s control if the home isn’t finished,” warns Mackey. “Buyers should get, in writing, what happens if that home completion falls out of that date range.”

There’s also the possibility that a home loan may be delayed or fall through due to mortgage approval problems, which might occur if the buyer suddenly changes jobs at the last minute or makes a big purchase like a car. Generally, it’s best to come to the closing table having made no significant recent changes that would affect your finances.

Why builder incentives are on the rise today

During the red-hot market that began during the COVID-19 pandemic, when record levels of Americans were moving, builders didn’t have to offer many (or any) incentives for the homes they were building. Now that things are leveling a bit, however, homebuyers are starting to see a few more perks being thrown their way.

“In general, builders face similar conditions to other home sellers when it comes to pricing, and although home shoppers are interested, current mortgage rates, which are more than double year-ago levels, have drastically reduced affordability,” says Danielle Hale, chief economist for

“Higher costs and uncertainty about the economic outlook have made home shoppers who can navigate today’s housing market more selective, bringing demand much more in line with supply than we’ve seen in recent years,” she adds.

“In most cases, builders today are offering incentives at every phase of a project’s development or sales cycle,” says Kelly Zuccarelli, national builder and condominium program manager for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.

How Mortgage Rate Buy-Downs and Builder Incentives Can Make New Construction More Affordable

How to take advantage of builder incentives today

With interest rates on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage more than double what they were a year ago and currently in the 7% range, Zuccarelli says they’re currently seeing builder incentives focused almost exclusively on providing buyers with a more affordable monthly payment.

One possible incentive that may be offered is a permanent interest rate buy-down, funded by the builder, that creates a lower monthly payment for homebuyers and reduces financing costs over the life of the loan. Another incentive being offered is extended interest rate locks, paid for by builders, which allow homebuyers to lock in today’s interest rates and insulate themselves against any future rate increases.

One other really interesting financing incentive homebuyers should know about is that some builders actually purchased “rate locks” when rates were lower than they are today and can offer loans below current market rates to their buyers.

Zuccarelli suggests that buyers worried about current interest rates may wish to seek out builders who purchased rate locks before mortgage rates started heading up.

That said, Seeman points out that current incentives are likely to be short-lived.

“You’ll notice most of the incentive programs are time-boxed in order to give builders as much flexibility as possible to adapt and adjust incentives depending on market conditions,” says Seeman. “As a result, if a buyer is ready to move, we recommend grabbing a good incentive when they see it.”


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Unique and Chic: 5 Vintage Bathroom Looks That Add Big Bang (for Very Few Bucks)

When it comes to home décor projects, our eyes are often bigger than our wallets. There’s always plenty that needs to be done and a limited amount of time (and funds) to make it happen.

That’s why we’re turning to one of our favorite ways to remake spaces this week—one that doesn’t involve blowing your budget shopping online.

Summer is the season of thrifting—from the antiques stores you’ll encounter on vacation to the flea markets and pop-ups right in your ZIP code. We scoured Instagram for some of the trendiest and thriftiest looks in bathrooms right now.

Here are our five favorites to inform your next vintage haul.

1. Bright wallpaper

One of our top thrifty moves for a drab bathroom? Styling a few walls in bright, vintage wallpaper like this one from @theproperpeacock.

“The vintage trend is everywhere, and wallpaper is one of the easiest ways to incorporate the look,” says decor influencer Judith Lato, of @jotitup. “Vintage wallpapers can be so fun and completely transform the vibe. And for smaller spaces, like bathrooms, wallpaper’s very budget-friendly.”

Get the look: If you can’t find any vintage wallpaper you like, check out these retro styles from Wayfair.

2. Mix-and-match Delft tile

If you’re not interested in wallpaper, you might want to remake your bathroom with some tile, like this mix-and-match look with Delft tile from @blythcollinsoninteriors. (Delft is a style of blue-and-white ceramics.)

“Delft tile can be the perfect vintage addition to a bathroom,” says Lato. “With their traditional blue-and-white colors, they can add an antique spa feel to the space. Mix and matching make the tile visually interesting and even allows for depicting a specific story with the illustrations.”

Get the look: Scour your local thrift shops for Delft tile. Or save some money and make your own imitation Delft tile with this DIY guide.

3. A DIY vanity

Another DIY project we love is bathroom vanities that break from the boring, like this custom one from @kaitlinsmithinteriors.

“DIY vanity updates are perfect for any homeowner because, in a long weekend and for little money, you can completely transform the look of your bathroom,” says DIY expert Tracey Amadio, of @porchdaydreamer. “For $100 or less, you can paint a vanity and create a high-end look like you spent thousands on a remodel without the headache.”

Get the look: Source an antique dresser from your local thrift shop or follow Amadio’s online guides to repainting a vanity for a whole new look.

4. Funky plant stands

Among our favorite thrift items in home decor are plant stands. The possibilities are endless, and they always add extra character to the space, as in this design from @mels_home_and_garden.

“Unique plant stands are such a fun way to add some greenery to a bathroom,” says Lato. “Keep an open mind while thrifting, and you’ll find plenty of options to fit the bill: a stool, small side table, a coat rack for hanging plants, or even a funky statue.”

Get the look: Start scouring your local flea market and estate sales. Or skip the search, and opt for this affordable teak stool with vintage flair.

5. Old rugs

Probably the most rewarding finds in vintage collections are area rugs. There’s something deeply satisfying about paying a fraction of the original price for something that maintains its craftsmanship for generations.

And even the most worn-out rug can still work for certain jobs, like this bath mat inspiration from @eyeforpretty.

“Old rugs may have been one of the first decor items to inspire the vintage comeback,” says Lato. “They provide character and warmth even in a modern bathroom. Vintage rugs typically have muted colors and designs that soften a space and pair perfectly with wood tones.”

Get the look: Find your perfect vintage rug by shopping the collection on Kilim. Or opt for an even cheaper lookalike on Society6.


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