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How to Remove Scratches from Hardwoods


Hardwood floors are highly desirable for most homeowners, but they come with their share of challenges when it comes to cleaning, maintenance, and repairs. After a few months or years of heavy use from kids playing with toys and chairs being shuffled around, it may be time for some DIY fixes.

Hiding scratches: If you’ve got a good eye for matching colors, you can actually use crayons or markers or purchase wax sticks from the hardware store to fill-in scratches. Try to match the stain color on your floors, but don’t worry if it’s a little off. If the color is close, once the scratch is filled, it’ll look like a variation in the wood grain.

Polishing floors: You can make a polish solution for your floors from household ingredients. Mix olive oil and vinegar in equal parts, pour it directly into scratches, and then wipe it off after 24 hours. It may take several applications, but this homemade polish will fill and cover most scratches.

Clever decor: It’s not a long-term solution, but sometimes the most painless way to fix scratches in your floors is to cover them with a rug or furniture arrangement.

Spot sanding: For deeper scratches, you’ll need to spot sand with fine steel wool or sandpaper, use wood filler, and stain and seal the repaired area.





An evacuation plan is a necessity for every home, especially if you live in an area where fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding, and other disasters are a possibility. Many homeowners create evacuation plans for their homes and practice them with their kids, but far fewer have considered one for their pets. Take these steps to add your pets to your evacuation plan.

Assign pet evacuation to an adult. Everyone should know how to act during an evacuation, and that includes assigning one parent or adult to the pets. This allows the other parent and the children to focus on their part of the evacuation plan, so there’s no confusion during a high-stress moment when time is of the essence.

Keep evacuation maps and pet carriers readily accessible. If you need to evacuate, you should know exactly where every important item is. If you pets require carriers, keep them in a place that you can access easily.

Practice your plan. Include your pets in your home evacuation drills. It’ll help you see how they will respond and make changes to your plan if necessary. Getting your dog out of a window may not be as simple as you think!

Be prepared in case you get separated from your pets. No matter how much you drill your evacuation plan, it’s possible that a dog or cat will run off while you’re focusing on keeping your family safe. A microchip or a GPS-compatible tag can help you find your pets once it’s safe to return to the area.


Heads Up Home Buyers: Mortgage Rates Just Took a Big Jump



Are you thinking about buying a home in 2018? Are you on the fence about entering the real estate market? If so, you might want to consider buying sooner rather than later. Mortgage rates just rose again, and economists from Freddie Mac and other groups are predicting that they could rise gradually throughout 2018.

Mortgage Rates Hit Highest Level Since December 2016

During the week of February 8, 2018, the average rate for a 30-year fixed home loan rose to 4.32%. Rates haven't been that high since December 2016. This is based on the weekly mortgage industry survey conducted by Freddie Mac. The average rates for 15-year fixed mortgages and 5/1 ARM loans rose as well. Those are the three categories tracked by this survey.

According to the Freddie Mac report:

"The U.S. weekly average 30-year fixed mortgage rate rocketed up 10 basis points to 4.32 percent this week. Following a turbulent Monday, financial markets settled down with the 10-year Treasury yield resuming its upward march. Mortgage rates have followed. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate is up 33 basis points since the start of the year."

This is actually the continuation of a trend that began a few weeks ago. For a while now, mortgage rates have been following a steady upward path. You can see that clearly in the chart below. During the latter half of 2017, and into the beginning of 2018, the average rate for a 30-year mortgage hovered below 4%. Then it crossed that threshold and shot up by 25 basis points (0.25%), which brings us up to the latest reading.

Chart: 30-Year Loan Rates Over the Last Year

The chart below, courtesy of Freddie Mac, shows average rates for a 30-year fixed home loan going back one year. As you can see, rates are higher now (on the right side of the chart) than they've been all year. 

Chart: Average mortgage rates over the last year | Source: Freddie Mac PMMS

This is not surprising to industry watchers and analysts. Last year, economists from the Mortgage Bankers Association and Freddie Mac were predicting that rates would rise gradually throughout 2018. Some forecasts suggested that the average rate for a 30-year mortgage would reach 5% by the end of this year. And that's entirely plausible, given this recent uptick in lending rates.

So what's causing this recent rise in borrowing costs? Several things. Over the last year, the Federal Reserve has been gradually increasing the short-term federal funds rate. This can have an indirect affect on consumer borrowing costs. The Fed's policy changes, along with general economic improvements, are partly what's driving the rise in interest rates -- including those used for mortgage loans.

And some economists are predicting that we will see a continued yet gradual rise in rates throughout 2018. 

All of this makes a good argument for buying a home sooner rather than later. Home buyers who postpone their purchases until later in the year could encounter higher mortgage rates. And when you consider the fact that home prices are still rising in most parts of the country, there's even more urgency.

Granted, you should never make a home purchase until you are 100% ready to do so, financially and emotionally. It has to be the right move for you, one that will improve your qualify of life in some way. With that being said, it might make sense to buy sooner rather than later to avoid possible rate hikes and home-price increases. 

Note: Mortgage rates can vary from one borrower to the next due to a number of factors, including credit history and the type of loan being used. The numbers presented above are based on averages reported by Freddie Mac.

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