Linda Grissette | St. Charles Real Estate, St. Peters Real Estate, O’Fallon Real Estate


If you're selling a home, having high quality photos is one of the most important things you can do to catch the eye of prospective buyers. Taking great photos, however, is something that requires a combination of frequent practice and knowledge of how your camera works. Sure, these days you can take a decent photo with an iPhone camera and be done with it. While that method is a good start, if you want to progress with your photography you'll eventually have to make the leap to a DSLR where you have more freedom to change exposure settings. I know what you're thinking. High quality photos means spending a ton of money on camera equipment, right? Fortunately, entry level DSLR cameras have become more affordable in recent years. To start taking great photos you'll only need four things: your DSLR camera, a tripod, a wide angle lens, and a place to practice your photography.

Step 1: Setting up

You'll want to set up the room with the right balance of furniture, decorations and natural light. Avoid decorations that are too personal (like family photos) or eccentric (no stuffed animals, preferably). Set up your tripod against one of the walls of the room. Ideally, you'll have the target of your photo illuminated by natural light coming through windows, so you'll likely be standing in front of or next to the windows. However, before you take any photos use your best judgment to determine the room's best angles. The amount of and the placement of furniture will play a large role in how spacious the room looks, but equally important is the camera angle from which you take your photos.

Step 2: Learn your camera settings

You won't learn all of the settings in a DSLR overnight, but it is important to get an understanding of the basics. In spite of the many technical improvements that have been made, the basic concept of a camera hasn't changed much over the years. The two main components that determine what your picture looks like are aperture and shutter speed. Aperture (or "f-stop") is what is used to determine how much light enters the camera. Much like your pupils dilate in the dark to let in as much light as possible, having a wide aperture will allow you to take brighter photos. Shutter speed is the amount of time the shutter on your camera is open. A slower shutter speed allows more light into the camera, creating a brighter exposure. However, due to our inability to hold a camera entirely still having a slower shutter speed creates more opportunity for your photo to become blurred from camera shake. A third important setting is the ISO. This setting is unique to digital photography because it controls the sensitivity of the camera's image sensor. The higher the number, the more sensitive. Why not just crank it up all the way then to get the best quality? Because if you set it too high the photos become grainy or "noisy."

Step 3: Practice

Now that you know the basics, start taking photos in your home using various camera settings. Play around with taking photos with different light sources on, with your camera flash on and off, and at different times of day. You'll find that there are endless possibilities when it comes to taking photos of your home.  

When I was younger I loved to read books and collect my favorites in my room. I dreamed of someday having my own home with a massive library of books, the shelves going all the way up to the ceiling. As I grew up and it came time to move out on my own, I realized my accumulation of books became an obstacle to moving. My bookcase was huge and heavy, as were my books. It wasn't until I started packing things into old milk cartons for moving that I realized I had a ready-made bookshelf. In my new home I painted the milk crates fun colors and stacked them in a way that best utilized the space in my small apartment. This is just one of the many simple and fun ways of storing your beloved books in your home. Read on for more creative bookshelf solutions that you'll wish you thought of years ago.

Deciding what books you need

Even though we live in the era of smartphones and ebook readers, there is still value in owning a physical copy of a book. There's the joy of holding it in your hand, admiring the cover art, flipping the pages, and--of course--that new book smell. However, you might not need to own a physical copy of every book you've read. With interlibrary loans, ebooks, and the Kindle app there's really no need for a huge collection of books. Weed out your collection and keep the ones that are most valuable to you. It will be hard to part with them, but if you donate to your local library or a charity you can feel good about your decision. You'll soon realize it's great to have the extra space.

Creative book storage

If you want to a fun, minimal bookshelf but aren't into the idea of having old milk crates stacked up against your wall, fear not--there are innumerable other options.

Staircases

There have been countless fun and minimal staircase bookshelves created over the years. Sometimes people build on to the side of their staircase, other times they utilize negative space underneath to build a bookshelf that fits opposite each step of the staircase. If it's children's books you need to store in your kids' rooms, consider building a staircase bookshelf that leads up to the second bunk of a bunkbed. It will safe space and provide a safe way for your child to reach the top bunk.

Invisible bookshelves

If the idea of having another piece of furniture in your living room just to put a few books on drives you crazy, consider using an invisible bookshelf. These wall-mounted systems are totally invisible behind your books and give the illusion that the books are just floating up against the wall, creating a minimalist's dream bookshelf. If you're more into cozy than minimal, try stacking the books from biggest to smallest on top of one another on a corner table. It's also a good way to hide wires that come from an outlet on the wall.

Built-in bookshelf

Some older homes were built in a time where reading was a highly respected (and admittedly, one of the only) indoor pastimes. Many of these homes have walls with built in bookshelves. They add a stately look to a room and can serve as storage for items besides books too. It's possible to make your own if you're savvy when it comes to building. However you can also purchase bookshelves that give the illusion of being built into the wall.  

At a glance, buying a home seems like a daunting and complicated process. If it's your first time buying a home you're probably hearing a lot of terms that don't mean much to you like "rate commitment," "prequalify," and an array of acronyms that no one has ever really explained like APR and ARM. What many first time homebuyers don't realize is that the mortgage application process is relatively straightforward. It's a way for lenders to determine if they will lend money to the homebuyer. The lender will require some documentation on your part and you'll want to do your homework when it comes to choosing the right mortgage for you, but if you're confused about where to begin, here's everything you need to know about the home mortgage application process.

Gather your documents

Each lender will be slightly different when it comes to what records and documents they require from you. In general, lenders will require two years of work history, proof of income, and tax papers. They will also ask for your permission to run a credit check. Some things you should bring when applying for a mortgage include:
  • Your most recent pay stubs (at least two)
  • Your most recent W-2 forms
  • Completed tax returns
  • Bank statements
  • Gift letters
  • Debt - credit cards, student loans, etc.

Filling out the application

The actual application for the mortgage is pretty simple. Be expected to provide your personal and marital information, as well as your social security number. When you apply for a loan you'll also be determining if you're applying singly or with another person, such as a spouse. Some people apply jointly to seek a higher loan amount. However, you should be aware that if this is your plan of action the lender will require income and credit information from both of you. Keep in mind that it isn't easy to remove one person from a home loan once the contract is signed, so you should make certain of this decision before applying jointly.

Locked-in interest rates

It won't come as a surprise to you that, like in other industries, interest rates on mortgages fluctuate. For this reason, many home buyers attempt to "lock-in" their interest rate, meaning the lender is no longer allowed to change the interest rate after signing. The benefit of locking in your interest is that it can avoid having your interest rate raised before you sign on the home. The disadvantage is that since rates fluctuate, you could miss out on a lower one. This is also the difference between APR (annual percentage rating) and ARM (adjustable rate mortgage). With an APR, the cost of borrowing money (interest) is fixed. For an ARM, the interest rate can increase, decrease, or stay the same at different points in the repayment process.

Refinancing

Your financial situation is bound to fluctuate throughout your life, hopefully for the better. At some point down the road, it might make sense to refinance on your mortgage. Essentially this means you are agreeing to change the details of the mortgage to either accept a different interest rate or to alter the length of the loan term. Refinancing usually involves fees, however, so you don't want to rely on it too heavily as a fallback.



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