Quick Guide to Making a Home Office Out of Your Garage

If you want a comfortable, inspiring office for working from home, the garage could be the perfect place. By creating a home office in your garage, you get all the perks of remote work—convenience, no commute, and cost savings being a few of them. The kicker is that you also get a space that is separate from the main living areas, which can mean fewer distractions and better meetings with clients.

Does converting your garage into your office sound a bit crazy? Does it seem like it would just be way too much work? Well, if you evaluate your space, think about what you want, and make a solid plan before you dive in, you can make the process much less overwhelming. And Dream Builderz has some tips for how you can get a strong start!

Make Sure You’re Committed
First, take time to confirm that your garage is where you want to work. You will always be able to use your garage for various activities once you turn it into a livable space, but it will also require a good amount of work if you ever choose to turn it back in your vehicle’s home!

Also, check to see if you will get tax deductions by working in your garage office. Depending on where you live and what type of work you do, among other factors, you may be able to qualify for deducting certain business expenses on your tax return through the home office deduction. Click here to learn more.

Seal the Space
You are going to want your home office to be comfortable year-round. And if you typically get cold winters and hot summers where you live, it’s essential that your garage is well-sealed. Evaluate every nook and cranny of the space, including the garage door. You may need to add insulation to the walls or fix gaps around your garage door. 

By making sure the space is sealed, you can expect your HVAC, air conditioners, and space heaters to do less work, which means lower energy bills and more temperature control!

Paint the Walls
You will need to clear your garage of any clutter and do some deep cleaning of the space before designing your home office. Once that is finished, throw a fresh coat of paint on the walls, doors, and trim. While some people benefit from having more vibrant colors, consider painting a light gray or white if you want to make the space look bigger. Plus, lighter colors tend to make better backgrounds for virtual meetings.

Get the Lighting Right
Lighting is another big deal when it comes to your home office. Most garages do not have windows, but since natural light is ideal for work environments, assess your budget to see if you can have windows installed. With or without windows, however, you will need to add floor lamps, desk lamps, and potentially hanging lamps to ensure that you will be able to see your work with minimal eye strain.

Bring in the Comfort
Perhaps the most fun part of transforming a garage into a home office is decorating. You want your home office to look professional while also presenting a little bit of your personality. And you want it to be comfortable!

If you are going to have clients and other visitors over to your office regularly, make sure there are chairs and tables for them to visit comfortably. You can find all kinds of quality second-hand furniture at a great price through online marketplaces like Etsy and Facebook Marketplace. Look for fun decor that compliments your office’s appeal, and consider putting in some extra amenities like a mini-fridge, a coffee station, and baskets of snacks.

The perfect space for your home office might have been right under your nose this whole time! Consider the possibility of converting your garage into your office, and if you choose to do so, hash out a detailed plan for getting it done. The tips above will get you off to a great start. But remember to look online for inspirational ideas and other advice for making your transformation a smooth process.

Are you looking for a reputable, dedicated general contractor in Braintree, MA? Contact DreamBuilderz.com today! (617) 448-9802

Home Improvement Projects That Pay Off When You Sell

Investing in a few home improvements can help you sell your property faster and for more money, even in a hot housing market. But you don’t have to break the bank to get your home in shape for a sale. Small, inexpensive upgrades can have a big payoff when you sell!

While you can tackle many of these projects on your own, don’t hesitate to call a professional if you’re in over your head. For example, Dream Builderz can help with construction projects of any size, from finishing basements to building decks.

With that in mind, here are some impactful home repairs and upgrades to prepare your property for sale.

Enhance Your Curb Appeal

The exterior of your home is the first thing house hunters will see when browsing for properties online or driving around in search of homes for sale. Make a great first impression!

  • Hire someone to come out and clean your gutters. Use a platform like Angi.com to search for well-reviewed local professionals.
  • Give your exterior trim a fresh coat of paint.
  • Lay fresh mulch over your garden beds to make your landscaping appear neat and clean.
  • Install affordable landscape lighting to add an evening ambiance to your exterior.

Update Your Bathroom and Kitchen

Bathroom and kitchen upgrades don’t have to be expensive. If you’re on a budget, keep it simple with these improvement ideas.

Tackle Regular Maintenance Problems

Take care of all those routine maintenance tasks before buyers see your home. Minor home repairs are inexpensive but essential before putting your property on the market!

  • Learn how to fix or replace a loose doorknob.
  • Make sure all cabinet doors and drawers open and close smoothly.
  • Fix chipped and peeling paint properly to avoid dents and divots on your walls.
  • Refinish hardwood floors to remove scratches and restore their shine.

Investing in home upgrades might be the last thing you want to do when you’re just going to sell your home to someone else. Fortunately, you don’t have to put much time or money into improvements to see results. A few fresh coats of paint and some minor repair work should help you fetch a higher price for your home!

Home Improvement Decisions You'll Never Regret

When it comes to home remodeling, there are very few design decisions you can make that are sure to stand the test of time. While it can be tempting to opt for trendy renovations (open shelving anyone?), there's no guarantee that they next buyer - or your future self - will share the same preference. We're all painfully aware that the future is tough to predict, but there are a handful of decisions you can make on home improvements that won't keep you up at night, regardless of market forces.

Infrastructure

When it comes to remodeling, there are fewer sure-fire bets than investing in a home's infrastructure. Investing in updated electrical and HVAC systems, siding, plumbing, insulation, and windows can yield tremendous ROI for homeowners whether they're dwelling or selling. These systems are often hidden behind walls and under floors, so they're easy to ignore. However, neglecting your home's infrastructure can lead to inconvenient and costly repairs and can be hazardous to your family's health and safety. There's a reason home inspectors spend most of their time in attics and crawlspaces – the overall health of your home has less to do with aesthetics and more to do with what's behind the scenes.

Storage

Storage is a consideration that can be easily overlooked when you're imagining your dream living space, which is almost by design - practical and efficient storage is meant to be out of sight, out of mind. Whether you plan to stay in your home or sell in the near future, sacrificing storage space is a decision you'll likely regret. If your remodel demands eliminating a hall closet, make sure you have a plan to reorganize and add that storage back elsewhere. It's impossible to predict what life changes your home might need to accommodate in the future, and if you plan to sell, ample storage will be a plus for practically any prospective buyer.

Lighting

It can be tempting to see lighting as an afterthought, but in actuality lighting should be a starting point, as it impacts every detail in a room. Take time to research and create a lighting plan that best accentuates the features of your home, taking into account natural light and ways to implement accent lighting. When the time comes to implement your plan, you can't go wrong with a licensed electrician who can ensure all changes are up to code.

Running the Numbers on Refinancing

Deciding whether or not to refinance an existing mortgage typically means running some numbers. You can do this on your own, but it’s helpful to get the professional assistance of a loan officer. It mostly boils down to how much you’ll save each month, but there are other considerations.

First, the change in rate isn’t everything. Old school rules say that it’s a good idea to refinance if current market rates are 1% or 2% lower than what you currently have, but the rate is only a part of it. The other component is the amount being financed. For larger loan amounts, a reduction of only 0.5% might make sense. For smaller loan amounts, 2% may not be enough.

Instead, calculate the monthly savings and then divide that amount into the closing costs associated with the mortgage. The result is how many months it will take to ‘recover’ the closing costs in the form of monthly savings. Pay less attention to the actual rate but instead how long it will take to get your closing costs back.

Take a loan amount of $300,000 over 30 years with a rate of 4.50%. The principal and interest payment works out to $1,520 per month. If current market rates are at 3.5%, the new payment would be $1,347 for a savings of $173 per month. If closing costs were $3,000, then it would take just over 17 months to recover the associated fees. Not bad. If the loan amount were $100,000 under the same scenario, the monthly savings would be $57 and recovered in 52 months, or more than four years. Probably not a good idea in that situation.

There are other considerations outside of month-to-month savings. Let’s say you’re less concerned about lowering your monthly payments, and you’re more interested in paying off your house faster. In this scenario, it may make sense to refinance at an even lower interest rate on a 15-year mortgage. You’ll pay more per month, but you can potentially save tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.

If you’re wondering whether a refi makes sense for you, reach out! I’ll be happy to answer any questions and can refer you to a mortgage professional when you’re ready to crunch some numbers.

Winter is Coming... Again


As Ben Franklin once said: “In this world, nothing is certain but death and cleaning your gutters before winter to prevent ice dams”. With that, here are five fall home maintenance activities to start thinking about in the coming weeks.


Check your chimney

Make sure everything is in order before the first fire of the season. "Creosote buildup causes chimney fires," says Family Handyman. "You should have your chimney professionally inspected or cleaned after every 70 fires. Don't remember the last time you had it cleaned by a pro? A quick way to tell if your chimney needs cleaning is to run the point of your fireplace poker along the inside of your chimney liner. If you find a 1/8” layer (or more) of buildup, call a chimney sweep."

Check your roof
Storms, wind, and other weather conditions over the past year could have done damage that you're not aware of. Don’t wait until the first heavy snow to find out you have a leak. If you're not comfortable on a ladder or just want a professional eye, a pro roofer will typically charge you less than $100 to check it out.

Seal it up
There are three important reasons to make sure your home is air tight: 1) Keeping moisture out; 2) Keeping critters out; 3) Keeping warm air in. Fall is when pests begin to look for places to ride out the winter, so make sure your exterior is free of gaps and holes that will allow for unwanted houseguests.

Sealing up holes and cracks can also make your home more efficient—saving you money and keeping you warm and cozy. In most cases all you need is weather stripping and caulk.

Disconnect garden hoses from faucets
As soon as the weather dips, it's time to disconnect and drain hoses. This simple task can potentially save you a lot of heartache later. “Leaving hoses attached can cause water to back up in the faucets and in the pipes just inside your exterior walls,” says HouseLogic. “If freezing temps hit, that water can freeze, expand, and crack the faucet or pipes.”

Also, make sure to drain your hoses before storing them to prevent cracking during the cold winter months.

And, of course, clean your gutters
Depending on your climate and the surrounding foliage, you may need to clean your gutters more than once throughout the fall. Your gutters are your best ally when it comes to moving moisture away from your home, so it’s critical to keep them free of obstruction.

30 or 15-Year Mortgage? Those aren’t your only choices.

If you're brand new to the wonderful world of home loans, you might be a bit overwhelmed by how many different types of financing options are really out there. Both primary loan types (fixed-rate and adjustable-rate) have many variations, so how do you know which one is best for you?

Let’s start with Fixed-Rate Mortgages. The most popular loan in today's marketplace is the 30-year fixed. This is a loan paid over the course of 30 years, with a fixed interest rate, meaning you’ll pay the same interest rate in year one as you will in year 30 of your mortgage. Your payment may change due to insurance or taxes, but generally a 30-year loan is seen as a practical option due to its stability, simplicity, and month-to-month affordability.

So, what's the attraction of the 15-year-fixed? A 15-year loan will have slightly lower interest rates compared to a similarly priced 30-year loan, but since the term is so much shorter, you’ll pay much less in interest over the life of the loan. The tradeoff is that the monthly payments will be much higher because the term isn’t stretched out over 30 years. If a buyer’s goal is to save as much as possible over the long term, and they can afford the steeper monthly payment, a 15-year is a good choice.

If you’re interested in a 15-year term but the high monthly payments make you wary, consider a 20-year or a 25-year term. These two choices provide a "middle of the road" option when it comes to balancing monthly payment and long-term savings.

The other primary loan type is the Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM). With an ARM, your interest rate will change annually (or sometimes semi-annually) based on the market rates and your loan agreement.

Today, most ARM loans for property buyers are really Hybrid ARMs. These types of ARM loans feature a fixed initial period where the interest rate is locked, with rates adjusting on a regular basis after that. For example, a 5/1 ARM has an initial fixed rate period of 5 years, with the rate adjusting annually (the “1” in 5/1) after that. 3/1, 7/1, and 10/1 are other common hybrid ARMs.

With an ARM, the interest rate during the initial period will be much lower than that of fixed rate loans. The downside is that after the initial period, the rate will adjust based on the index the loan is tied to and most often this means an increased payment over time. ARMs can be a really good choice for a handful of prospective borrowers:

Borrowers who are confident in future earnings: If you’ve recently graduated from medical school (congrats!) or you’re the beneficiary of a trust that’s not paying out yet (also, congrats), a hybrid loan will allow you to qualify for a larger loan despite your current financial status, as you’ll be able to afford the rising rates later on.

“Here for a good-time not for a long-time” homeowners: If you’re confident you’ll be in the home for a very short period of time (say, less than 5 or 10 years), you can enjoy a super-affordable interest rate and sell the home before the end of the initial fixed rate period.

You plan to pay off the loan fast: Let’s say you’re downsizing to a smaller home but haven’t received funds from the sale of your previous home. An ARM will allow you to enjoy a low payment until your cash is disbursed, at which time you can pay off your ARM before the end of the initial fixed-rate period.

Demo Day the Responsible Way

Thanks to HGTV, "Demo Day" is often thought of as the fun part of renovation and construction. Owners and celebrity reno stars wield sledgehammers and power tools while kicking down drywall, tearing out cabinets, and throwing building material from second-story windows. The carefree assault on a dated home makes demolition look easy and fun, but there is more skill and expertise involved than you might think.

If you're considering a DIY demo to save money before a renovation, make sure you know what you're getting into, and you are prepared for any problems that may arise.

Demo Day the Responsible Way
Demo Day the Responsible Way

Safety First: Ensure you have enough safety equipment — steel-toed work boots, safety glasses, hard hats, masks, and work gloves for everyone in your crew. Full coverage, snug-fitting shirts and pants provide protection from splinters, itchy fiberglass, and rusty-nail scratches. Keep a first aid kit handy, and make sure your phone is fully charged in the event of an emergency.

Hidden Hazards: Is there asbestos in your carpet padding or lead in the wall paint? If your home was built before 1978, there’s a good chance some paint in the home will contain lead. Asbestos is trickier – it’s been banned in some common building materials, but is still used in others. When in doubt, test flooring, walls, ceilings, and pipe wrappings before beginning work. The risks from asbestos arise when it is damaged or disturbed and the asbestos fibers become airborne, so wearing a proper respirator and following the correct procedures is crucial.

Work Smart: Does everyone involved know how to use power equipment and heavy tools like crowbars and sledgehammers? Each helper should be cognizant of what is happening around them when the swinging and smashing starts.

Secure The Site: Is the worksite safe? Shut off power when working on or close to electrical systems. Turn off the water main when plumbing is involved. Sites should be secured to keep kids, pets, thieves, and curious passers-by out. Make sure to display "No Trespassing" signs as well.

Plan For Success: Take a close look at the structure and materials to be demolished before you start anything physical. Which way do the joists run? Which walls are structural? Which walls have water lines, electrical wires, or gas lines behind them? Is there anything you want to protect and preserve? If you can't identify structural components, then you certainly shouldn't remove them. Consult a building professional (architect, engineer, contractor) before smashing into your walls, and check with your insurance broker to confirm you are covered for all liabilities before you begin.

Remember the big picture: These are just a few of the things you should consider before beginning a DIY demo. Every project is unique and comes with its own unique conditions and challenges. Take the time to talk to contractors, architects, interior designers, and real estate professionals to learn what should be done before you start, that way you don't end up demolishing your dreams and your budget!

Put Down Roots this Fall

Spring is often thought of as the best time for planting, but planting in the fall can offer some significant advantages for your plants. Below are some reasons why fall is the best time for planting perennials, trees, and shrubs.

Perfect Planting Weather
The cooler weather of fall is easier for plants and gardeners alike. The ground isn't dry or frozen, and temperatures are mild and enjoyable. Your plants aren't stressed out by extreme conditions, so they acclimate to their new environment quicker. Plus, you can tend to them without excessive sweating or sunburn!

Flexibility and Rampant Roots
There is no need to rush to prevent plants from drying up in their containers or delay because the ground is too hot. You can plant whenever is convenient for you.

As for trees, planting them when they've lost their leaves is actually better because they won't have to exert energy growing leaves and can focus on growing roots. This is the biggest fall advantage - plants can grow better roots, which will allow for gorgeous foliage and blooms come springtime.

Put Down Roots this Fall
Put Down Roots this Fall

Lower Maintenance, Lower Bills
Cooler weather means less frequent watering. You can relax with more free time, a lower water bill, and the knowledge that your plant babies will not shrivel and roast in the heat of the day.

A good tip for planting in the fall is to water the plants in their pots a few hours before you transport them to their new homes. This lets them soak up water and be better prepared for planting. Pre-water the hole they'll be placed in as well.

Devise Your Plant Plan
Fall allows you to see sparse areas of your garden that need more foliage. It is the best time to plan out next year's garden and get a head start on planting. You'll know exactly how the other plants look at full bloom and how much space they take up, allowing you to add pops of color where you know you need it.

Supply Sales
Gardening supplies are typically at their peak prices in spring, but prices drop in fall when shops need to clear space and some even close their business for the winter. Fall is a great time to shop for non-perishable supplies, seeds, and even some bulbs. You can often get gardening tools at discounted prices along with some fertilizers, netting, pebbles, and similar things. Watch out for sales on pots and containers too!