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The 7 Smartest Home Improvements You Can Make

Living Room Upgrades

When you are planning to improve your home and are on a limited budget, it is important to spend efficiently to give you the best bang for your buck. Some improvements will stretch your dollar more and can even provide an excellent financial return in the future.

Here is our list of 8 budget friendly home improvement projects you can enjoy today and help you sell your home for more tomorrow!

Add the Finishing Touch of Molding

Decorative molding is a classic touch that frequently gets overlooked when many people are deciding on a home improvement project. The fact is that upgraded molding is still one of the best ways to dress up a room. This east improvement help give a room a finished and expensive look.

One of the wonderful things about molding is that you have hundreds of different options and styles. Whether you want a simple look or a very ornate look there is a style for you and we haven’t even gone over the color and materials. You can also get specialized features like built-in lighting!

The cost is very low if you DIY and averages around $1.50/foot depending on the kind of molding. If you hire out it is still averages only $8/foot which is extremely reasonable.

Install Quality Ceiling Fans

Modern Ceiling FanOnce upon a time, ceiling fans were considered an ugly, wobbly, necessity to combat rising energy costs. Not anymore! Over the last two decades, ceiling fans have become higher quality and also seen as a good investment.

Today, ceiling fan design has caught up with the times and come in an extremely wide variety of styles, colors, and price points. You’d be surprised just how refreshing it is to replace your old, noisy ceiling fan.

In general, the size of the fan blade matters more than the number of fan blades. With this in mind, it’s best to go for the largest Energy Star rated ceiling fan you can fit in your particular space.

Also remember, if you have a low ceiling, buy a hugger ceiling fan that is mounted flush with your ceiling.

Plant Some Trees

Let’s be honest, adding trees isn’t something that most people think of when they think “home improvement” but trees are like wine, they get better with age.

What improvements can a tree make? Well if you plant them on the side of your home that receives the most sun, the south side, you can save up to $250 annually on your cooling costs. The tree will also help protect your home from wind and the roots of the trees prevent erosion from downpours.

So what about the future?

According to the Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers (CTLA), a mature tree could be worth up to $10,000 especially in urban areas. Also, a recent study of home sales suggests that homes with trees growing in front or near a house boosted its sale price by an average of $8,870 and shaved a full two days off of its time on the market.

Install a Patio

Now here is one that definitely comes to mind when you think Home Improvement. The Patio. Just don’t go overboard. Keeping it simple, functional, and beautiful will allow you to recover 30% to 60% of your investment when you sell your home. The moment you start adding in high-end outdoor appliances like pizza ovens and kitchens, you won’t get back what you spent on your investment.

Energy-Efficiency is the Name of the Game

The value of energy-efficient houses just keeps going up and up. A UCLA study examined the sales prices of 1.6 million California homes from 2007 to 2012 and found that homes with Energy Star, LEED, or GreenPoint certification had, on average, a 9% higher price.

That finding is echoed in NAHB’s report that surveyed homebuyers across the nation: Nine out of 10 potential buyers would select an efficient home with lower utility bills over a less efficient home priced 2% to 3% less.

One energy-saving home improvement project that not only saves energy but gives you tons of enjoyment, too, is converting a wood-burning fireplace into a gas one. If you like to crunch energy numbers, gas fireplaces have energy-efficient ratings as high as 77%, compared with wood-burning fireplaces that convert only 15% of wood’s energy into useful heat.

In fact, 39% of homebuyers say a gas fireplace is an essential or desirable feature of the next home they purchase. So when it comes time to sell your home, more than one-third of potential buyers will be looking for a gas fireplace. In the meantime, it’ll be paying for itself in reduced heating costs.

Clever Storage

Clever Storage for Home SellersStorage and built-in organization is always on the top of buyers lists. The trick is to add storage without taking away floor space. If you just add lots of storage without taking that into account, you end up with a cramped home.

So let’s think about ways to add storage without making the home seem smaller.

  • Open drywall to create storage cubbies between your wall’s studs.
  • Install platform storage that hangs from your garage ceiling.
  • Even stairs can give you more storage. One clever mom repurposed an old chest of drawers and created storage within a basement staircase.

Light Up the Outdoors

Exterior lighting is just as important as interior lighting. You can use this lighting to accent what you like most about your home and the light keeps potential burglars away. Installing motion-detecting lights can even lower some premiums of homeowners’ insurance. With advances in solar lighting, it is now easier and more cost-effective than ever to give your homes nighttime curb appeal a significant boost. According to some studies, almost 90% of buyers include outdoor lighting on their list of features they are looking for in a home.

There are many other improvements that you can make to that could help you sell your home. Download our sellers guide for more!

Home Sellers Guide - Bruder Real Estate Team of Las Cruces

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In New Mexico watering plants is incredibly important. Every plant needs what but drought-resistant varieties, which need only dainty sips once they've been planted. This makes them perfect for low-rainfall areas such as New Mexico. Susan Gottlieb, an expert on drought-tolerant gardens, says native plants have the best chance of surviving dry summers or whatever nature throws at them."Natives have evolved to thrive in your climate without a whole lot of extra work," Gottlieb says.

Include these 5 stunners in your landscaping retire your watering can and save some money.

California Lilac1. California lilac (Ceanothus): This beautiful shrub flowers in late winter/early spring, emits a lovely fragrance, and shows flowers that run from white to purple. The "Concha" variety is prized for its deep blue blossoms. California lilacs grow best on dry, sloping land or in front of any structure that protects them from wind. They also prefer well-drained soil, and they don't do well in clay.

Deer Grass2. Deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens): Found in many desert gardens, deer grass is a spiky and dependable ornamental. It loves full sun, but also will grow in a little shade. Water every three days until established. After the first year, water only every three weeks. Deergrass underwent an early form of cultivation by many California Native American tribes who regularly burned areas to maintain stands of deergrass, and induce the production of long straight stalks for use in basketry. Each basket required over 3000 stalks, driving the need for cultivation

Salvia3. Salvia, heatwave series: These dependable perennials were developed in Australia to withstand extreme weather. As a bonus, they bloom spring through fall, to the delight of hummingbirds and butterflies. Colors include white, pink, and salmon. The tighter foliage of the Heatwave salvias allows them to be a given more prominent location in a garden setting which they well deserve considering they provide colour all through the warmer months right through autumn.

Dusty Miller4. Dusty miller (Senecio cineraria): This low-growing perennial is known for its silver-gray foliage, looks good as a ground cover, and thrives in containers stuffed with annuals. It hates standing around with wet roots, so plant it in soil that drains well. Many cultivars have been selected for particularly dense silvery tomentum, such as 'Cirrus', 'New Look', 'Ramparts', 'Silverdust', 'Silver Filigree', and 'White Diamond'. It has been recommended in North America for its fire resistance, resistance to browsing by deer, and its salt tolerance.

Tickweed5. Tickweed (Coreopsis): These yellow perennials add a burst of sunshine to any garden or border. More than 100 species are long-blooming (so long as you deadhead) and low-maintenance. They range from long and leggy to small and mounded. Also, they are easy to divide, creating many more plants season after season. Many of its 35 to 114 species are cultivated. Twenty-eight species are native to North America and the others come from Central and South America.

More than 30 states host Native Plant Societies, which can guide your selection and help you save water in your garden. To find a local society, check with your local extension agent or with the Native Plant Conservation Campaign, a friend to native and endangered plants.

You can find your local Plant Society at the NPCC website:

And the New Mexico chapter can be found at the following:


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Refinancing Your Home Mortgage and Why YOU Should Do it Now!

Anyone who is looking at refinancing their home mortgage will inevitably come across the “Big Four” reasons to refinance. However, there are many more reasons that depend on your specific lifestyle and your future financial planning.

First, let’s quickly go over the “Big Four” for those who haven’t.

You will almost certainly get a lower interest rate.

Current interest rates are still hovering at near-historic lows and most likely are lower than the interest rate you currently have.

You will save money.

Having a lower interest rate means you will have a lower mortgage payment each month. Not only that, if your financial status and credit score have improved you will now be eligible for an even lower rate.

You will build more Equity, faster.

Your lower interest rate will result in more of each payment actually going toward your principal payoff.

You will pay less interest to the bank.

As more of each payment goes toward the principal payoff, less of that payment is going to the bank as interest on the loan.

More Reasons to Refinance

Those are all certainly great reasons to refinance but what other reasons could there be to entice you to refinance? We have added another four reasons for you to consider. These depend heavily on your lifestyle, financial situation, and your own future plans.

You may want to INCREASE the term of your mortgage.

Changing from the number of years left on your mortgage to a new 30-year mortgage will result in even lower monthly payments and you will save more each month. The tradeoff is that, in the long run, you will increase the amount of interest paid to the bank and it will also decrease the rate that you build equity.

You may want to DECREASE the term of your mortgage.

Depending on your financial planning, you may be able to convert from a 30 year mortgage to a 15 year mortgage. The big advantage here is that banks will offer you an even LOWER interest rate, therefore increasing the rate at which you build equity. The downside, of course, is that your monthly payments will be higher. This does mean that you will pay off the mortgage sooner which results in NO monthly mortgage payments.

Debt Consolidation

This new, low interest, single payment will allow you to get rid of high interest, high monthly payments on a 2nd mortgage, home equity loan, or other debts such as credit cards or car loans.

Changing to or from an Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM)

You may be at a point where you want to get rid of your current ARM, or balloon payment, or you may want to change TO an ARM. Either of these choices really depends on your specific financial situation, planning, and goals.

The Down Sides

Now that we have gone over 8 reasons that make refinancing seem like a ‘can’t miss’ opportunity but refinancing isn’t for everyone. There are some situations and instances that eliminate refinancing as a good option. Let’s go over 4 situations/considerations that will steer you away from refinancing.

Older Mortgages

As your mortgage ages the proportion of your payment that is credited to the principal of your loan increases substantially each year, while the proportion credited to the interest decreases. You will lose those perks by refinancing late in the term of your mortgage.

Potential/Planned Move

If you plan to move from your home in the next few years, the monthly savings gained from the lower monthly payments may not exceed the costs and inconvenience of the process of refinancing. You will need to carefully calculate the costs of refinancing to determine if it is worthwhile and profitable to refinance if you are planning to move in the near future.

Prepayment Penalty

If you pay off your Mortgage loan early, including for refinancing, you should carefully consider the costs of any prepayment penalty against the savings you expect to gain from refinancing. Again, a break-even analysis is necessary.

The Cost of Refinancing

Nothing is free and refinancing your home mortgage is no exception. You will need to seriously consider the actual cost of refinancing in addition to the terms and condition of your new mortgage.

With every new mortgage there are closing costs. These can amount to 3% to 6% of the loan amount. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Loan Origination Fees
  • Credit Report
  • Recording Fees
  • Title Policy
  • Title Company Fees
  • Appraisal
  • Survey

Lenders may be able to waive many of these items reducing your cost refinancing.

Be sure to look carefully at the details of the specific mortgage you are getting not just the interest rate. The terms and conditions of the mortgage are also pretty important and are often overlooked when refinancing.

At the end of the day, your decision must be based on the numbers. How many months of lower payments will it take to recoup your closing costs of the new mortgage? Are the costs too excessive? Will you be able to truly benefit from refinancing? Only after you’ve considered all of the costs and benefits should you make your final decision.

Next Week: An example Cost/Benefit Analysis

Next week we will look at specific, real-life examples with tables and graphs to demonstrate how beneficial a refinancing might actually be. Each example will evaluate the “Big Four” and how they would apply to you.

We will also be offering “A Guide to Mortgage Refinancing” which will provide more in-depth help in a convenient printable PDF in our next blog.

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9 Home Buyer Traps and How to Avoid Them - Bruder Real Estate Team of Las Cruces

9 Home Buyer Traps and How You Can Avoid Them!

A systemized approach to the home buying process can help you steer clear of these common traps, allowing you to not only cut costs, but also secure the home in Las Cruces that's best for you.

No matter which way you look at it, buying a home is a major investment. But for many homebuyers, it can be an even more expensive process than it needs to be since they fall prey to at least a few of the many common and costly mistakes which trap them into either:

  • Paying too much for the home they want, or
  • Losing their dream home to another buyer or,
  • (Or worse) buying the wrong home for their needs.

Today we will discuss the 9 most common and costly homebuyer traps, how to identify them, and what you can do to avoid them:


9. Bidding Blind

What price should you offer when you bid on a home? Is the seller's asking price too high, or does it represent a great deal. If you fail to research the market in order to understand what comparable homes are selling for, making your offer would be like bidding blind. Without this knowledge of market value, you could easily bid too much, or fail to make a competitive offer at all on an excellent value.

You and your REALTOR do a price positioning analysis to be sure you are offering a Purchase price that results in getting the home that is best Value available at the best Price.

8. Buying the Wrong Home

What are you looking for in a home? A simple enough question, but the answer can be quite complex. More often than not, buyers have been swept up in the emotion and excitement of the buying process only to find themselves the owner of a home that is either too big or too small. Maybe they're stuck with a longer than desired commute to work or a dozen more fix-ups than they really want to deal with now that the excitement has died down. Take the time upfront to clearly define your wants and needs. Put it in writing and then use it as a yard stick with which to measure every home you look at.

Our goal is finding the home which best meets your wants and needs (The practical choice). We want to end up with you saying, “This is the one.” (The emotional choice)

Get a home shopping worksheet and analysis the process.

7. Unclear Title

Make sure very early on in the negotiation that you will own your new home free and clear by having a title search completed. The last thing you want to discover when you're in the back stretch of a transaction is that there are encumbrances on the property such as tax liens, undisclosed owners, easements, leases or the like.

6. Inaccurate Survey

As part of your offer to purchase, make sure you request an updated property survey which clearly marks your boundaries. If the survey is not current, you may find that there are structural changes that are not shown (e.g. additions to the house, a new swimming pool, a neighbor's new fence which is extending a boundary line, etc.). Be very clear on these issues.

5. Undisclosed Fix-ups

Don't expect every seller to own up to every physical detail that will need to be attended to. Both you and the seller are out to maximize your investment. Ensure that you conduct a thorough inspection of the home early in the process. Hire an independent inspector, or multiple inspectors is specialized inspections are needed, to objectively view the home inside and out, and make the final contract contingent upon this inspector's report. This inspector should be able to give you a report of any item that needs to be fixed with associated, approximate cost. What a home-inspection should cover.

4. Not Getting Mortgage Pre-approval

Pre-approval is fast, easy and free. When you have a pre-approved mortgage, you can shop for your home with a greater sense of freedom and security, knowing that the money will be there when you find the home of your dreams. Contract Misses

3. Contract Misses

If a seller fails to comply to the letter of the contract by neglecting to attend to some repair issues, or changing the spirit of the agreement in some way, this could delay the final closing and settlement. Agree ahead of time on a dollar amount for an escrow fund to cover items that the seller fails to follow through on. Prepare a list of agreed issues, walk through them, and check them off one by one.

This part of the process is known as Transaction Management and in order to prevent these problems described above we have a dedicated Manager - See the process.

2. Hidden Costs

Make sure you identify and uncover all costs - large and small - far enough ahead of time. When a transaction closes, you will sometimes find fees for this or that sneaking through after the “sub”-total fees such as loan disbursement charges, underwriting fees etc. Understand these in advance by having your lender project total charges for you in writing. Find out the closing costs here.

1. Rushing the Closing

Take your time during this critical part of the process, and insist on seeing all paperwork the day before you sign. Make sure this documentation perfectly reflects your understanding of the transaction, and that nothing has been added or subtracted. Is the interest rate right? Is everything covered? If you rush this process on the day of closing, you may run into a last minute snag that you can't fix without compromising the terms of the deal, the financing, or even the sale itself. Transaction management and the closing process are multi-step processes which are time sensitive don’t rush.

Home Buyer's Guide - Bruder Real Estate Team of Las Cruces

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The Seven Deadly Sins that'll Stop Your Las Cruces Home Sale

Selling a Las Cruces home is not an everyday experience. It can be a complicated process. To successfully sell your home you must plan all the steps involved and fit the pieces together while avoiding the potential pit falls along the way. As a Las Cruces Real Estate Professional in the business of accomplishing all the steps that are needed to make the process easier for you, we have put our experience into this blog to help you avoid those 7 pitfalls.

7. Poor Curb Appeal

Buyers DO judge a book and your home by its cover. Curb appeal is an intangible, subjective quality - but it is one thing that can really sell a house. It is that quality that makes the buyer start thinking emotionally about living here, and makes them want to go inside.

Even if you have a limited budget, you want to put a good part of it toward sprucing up the front entrance to your home. Find out how to give your home more curb appeal here.

6. Unpleasent Odors

Most home owners have become accustomed to any offensive odors in their home such as pet or smoking odors, but buyers are not! A simple thing to try is to crack ALL the windows in the home open for about an hour prior to any viewings, and burn a vanilla scented candle.

While your home is going through the selling process, smoke outside and consider solutions for your pets.

How Pets Can Affect Selling Your Las Cruces Home

5. Pets

Even a small dog, cat, or noisy bird can be nerve wracking and distracting to buyers trying to view your home. Worse than that some Buyers may be allergic to animals.

So keep your animals away when you have viewings so your potential buyers aren't distracted or, even worse, scared. You want their initial experience to be pleasant and memorable in a good way. Find out how to sell a home where pets live here.

4. Signs of Dampness

Problems with dampness are a major turn-off to many buyers. Why, because dampness can mean possible mold.

Go through every room, wall, floor, and closet to be sure there is nothing smells damp and there are no signs of water stains on the walls. Deal with these issues right now to avoid losing potential Buyers. Get these areas inspected and repaired.

3. Dirt and Grime

A little dust or dirt may be only cosmetic, but to a potential buyer who doesn't know you or your home it can signal that your home may not be properly maintained or cared for. Yes, clean homes show better, and sell faster and for more money.

Here are the most important areas you need to make sparkle:

  • Kitchens and Bathrooms are at the top of the list!
  • Windows and Skylights
  • Baseboards and Walls
  • All Tiled Areas
  • All Closets and Cabinets

See why the rule is "Clean Your House Until It Sparkles"

2. Bad Decor

It is your home and it is your decor but it probably is the potential Buyer’s. Ever walk into an open house or a model home and notice how perfect it looks? That is because the property is "staged. That means the place has been dressed with floor coverings, paint, furniture arrangements, and accessories that have been carefully chosen to highlight the home's strengths, downplay its weaknesses.

Staging is about appealing to a broad range of buyers. It's about creating an image of a lifestyle that buyers can't resist. They need to be able to imagine themselves living in their home not yours and they need to be able to move you out and move it right away.

Staging doesn't require a big budget. Start with big things: Clean till it sparkles, De-clutter, De-personalize, less is more, let the sun shine in (light and bright), add splashes of color. 13 Transformational Tips here.

1. Wrong Price

Despite a perfect Listing Plan, Staging, and Marketing Plan, PRICING your home properly is the single biggest factor that will determine whether your home SELLS OR DOES NOT SELL.

If your house is too expensive compared to similar properties on the market, viewers won't even consider taking a look at your home. You must Position your home's Value and Price correctly from day #1.You only get one chance to make a first impression. Your home needs to rank as high as possible among the pool of all competing homes. You have a 90-day "golden window of opportunity."

Every Potential Buyer is watching each new listing as soon as it comes on the Market. If they are going to buy they will compare all the available homes, and select the home that gives them the Most Value and the Best Price.

Price will make your home rise to the top of homes that Buyers want to see and Agents want to show. Remember that you have a "90-day Golden Opportunity Window"

Home Sellers Guide - Bruder Real Estate Team of Las Cruces

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