Thursday, May 21, 2009

Kitchen Heat

Stainless steel appliances. Granite countertops. Not long ago, these were the hottest kitchen features. But now they’re expected and practically come standard. What are the next major trends to keep an eye on?

According to a recent National Kitchen and Bath Association survey of more than 200 kitchen designers, cherry and maple cabinets, quartzite countertops and custom-paneled appliances are hot. Where oak cabinets were once the must-have, more than 75 percent of survey participants now report using cherry and maple, followed by paints and exotic woods. And although nearly all designers believe stainless steel is still the most popular appliance finish, 77 percent say that custom paneling on appliances is becoming more common. Granite is still the most frequently used countertop material, but 65 percent of designers report using more quartzite, another durable stone material.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the trend toward bigger, more open kitchens that accommodate more than one cook and serve as more than just a place to cook. In incorporating these bigger kitchens, the traditional “work triangle” — the path between the refrigerator, food prep area and cooking area — is being replaced with work zones. As kitchens get bigger and even more functional, it seems certain that a trend toward specialization will grow as well.

Of course to really be on top of the game, it is advisable to consult with a local Kitchen Design Specialist. Look for one who is an accredited member of the National Kitchen and Bath Design Association. In my area, my go-to designer is Susan Lund, owner of Spacial Design. She has an extensive clientele list and a photo portfolio of her designs that is simply amazing. You can see more at

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Lending Hand

Home renovations can be daunting, but financing them doesn’t need to be. Homebuyers considering a fixer-upper and homeowners thinking about doing major rehab work might want to consider an FHA 203K loan.

Often called rehab or renovation loans, 203K loans differ from traditional mortgage loans. Buyers who want to purchase a home in need of repair usually have to secure a loan to buy the property, get additional financing to complete the renovation and then get a permanent mortgage to pay off the interim loans. 203K loans, however, are made based on the after-repair value and include an escrow account, in which the money is dispersed in draws as the necessary renovations are being completed.

Renovation loans can be used in three ways: to purchase an existing home (and the land attached to it) and renovate it; to pay off existing debt on a current residence and renovate it; or to purchase an existing property and move it to a new piece of land. The types of improvements allowed on 203K loans are extensive — painting, room additions, decks, bathroom and kitchen remodels, and even going green. Luxury items and improvements are generally not eligible.

Homebuyers need to work closely with their REALTOR® as well as a contractor to get a detailed statement about the extent and general cost of the rehab work and the expected market value of the property after the completion of the work. After finding a HUD-approved lender — not all banks administer these loans — and inspections and appraisals, the work can begin. For more information, go to

Sources: Department of Housing and Urban Development,