Jane Barker | Napa Real Estate, Staint Helena Real Estate, Yountville Real Estate


Home values continue to rise. Many people use their home equity in order to get a bit more financial security. The home equity line of credit can have many different benefits for you. From home improvement projects to a much-needed vacation, you can get the funds that you need for whatever you wish. Turn to your home equity with some careful thought, however. You could end up owing more than your home is worth, which defeats the purpose of tapping into your home equity to begin with. 


Make Your Decision Smart


Your home equity can be a good thing to tap in to if you’re not planning on spending like crazy. Maybe you just want a little extra cash on hand for emergencies. You’ll be prepared for anything unexpected. This could be a smarter decision than just blowing a bunch of money on a vacation, for example. 


Some smart things that you can use your home equity for include:


  • Home renovations
  • Emergency funds
  • College education funds
  • Cash advance


These ideas are investments that can help you to achieve other goals. You should be sure that you’re able to pay the money back. These projects or financial endeavors are much more suited to smart spending than just randomly spending money, buying a car, or other things that will put you in serious debt.


Home Equity Fluctuates


As the market changes, the amount of home equity that you’ll have to tap into does as well. The state of the housing market can actually dictate to you how much money you’ll be able to get. If the market isn’t good, you could end up in the negative financially, so do your research. 


How To Get Your Home Equity


There are a few ways that you can draw from your home’s equity. The first rule that you should understand is that you cannot borrow more than 80% of what your home is worth. Take a full remortgage your home, giving you the full 80% amount that your home is worth in order to take a lump sum. Alternatively, you can take a cash-out refinance where you set the amount of money you’d like to take out of your home’s equity as you refinance the home. You can also take out what’s called a “home equity line of credit,” which allows you to use the amount of your home’s worth as a credit card of sorts. You borrow money as you need it.     


The biggest issue with refinancing is that of planning. It’s important to know why you’re refinancing and what you’re planning on doing with the money. Used wisely, home equity can really be a great financial tool.


California's mild climate is ideal for home owners committed to making the most of their home's outdoor living space.

While backyard gardens, decks, and patios have long been a staple for many West Coast residents, in recent years there's been a growing emphasis on creating a smoother transition between indoor and outdoor living areas.

Many younger home owners now view their backyards, decks, and balconies as extensions of their indoor living space. That shift in thinking is reflected in several surveys, including one published by Better Homes and Gardens. A telling aspect of the report is that almost one-quarter of millennials surveyed say they plan to add or upgrade comfortable seating, outdoor dining tables and chairs, and other accessories to make their outdoor patio area feel like a room. In addition to patio furniture, some of the improvements and changes homeowners plan to make include installing landscape lighting, lamps, party lights, and a fire pit.

More than three-quarters of millennials surveyed say they want their outdoor living space to feel like a relaxing retreat. This shift in perception affects everything from home improvement priorities to household budgets and individual lifestyles.

According to a second national consumer survey -- this one conducted by Wakefield Research (on behalf of real estate developer Taylor Morrison) -- home buyers are increasingly willing to sacrifice square footage to gain outdoor space. In response to this trend, the national home builder says it has been incorporating special features into new homes, such as outdoor living rooms, floor-to-ceiling retractable glass walls that open to the backyard, and matching tile flooring extending from a new home's interior to its outside areas.

The company's objective is to create what it refers to as "a seamless flow in today's outdoor-oriented homes." In its survey of 1,000 current and future homeowners, a large percentage said they would rather spend an extra $10,000 to $15,000 on purchases related to outdoor living than on traditional home-improvement projects, such as upgraded cabinets and kitchen islands. Taylor Morrison area-president Charlie Enochs said several of its new floor plans have "blurred the hard line between the indoor and out" to meet the blended tastes of more and more home buyers.

When it's economically feasible, home buyers also have a strong preference for properties that provide sufficient privacy from neighbors. Survey results show that approximately 50 percent of all recent and prospective homebuyers believe that "breathing room" between houses is a key consideration for home buyers, surpassing other curb appeal elements like siding, driveway styles, house color, and roofing finishes.

When backyard space is unavailable or at a premium, builders and home owners are making the most of features like rooftop decks and balconies. Those structures often enable home owners to enjoy a nice view of nearby cityscapes, the Pacific Ocean, the San Francisco Bay, and other scenic vistas.


For those who recently bought or sold a house, it may be only a matter of time before you need to pack up your belongings and move them to a new address. As such, you'll likely need to figure out how to properly pack your artwork to reduce the risk of damage while moving.

Luckily, we're here to help you take the guesswork out of packing your artwork prior to moving day.

Let's take a look at three best practices for packing artwork.

1. Use Acid-Free Tissue Paper

Acid-free tissue paper offers advanced protection against moisture – a serious problem that may cause artwork to fade or deteriorate.

You should have no trouble finding acid-free tissue paper at any store that sells moving and packing supplies. Plus, acid-free tissue paper usually is inexpensive and can make a world of difference as you pack up your artwork.

Ideally, you'll want to wrap an entire piece of art in acid-free tissue paper. This will offer immense protection until you unwrap your artwork once you reach your new home.

2. Take Advantage of Specialty Boxes

Specialty moving boxes are available for artwork. Pick up a few of these boxes, and you can pack your artwork accordingly.

Use caution as you place artwork inside a moving box. Ensure the artwork is secure inside the box before you seal the box as well.

Also, don't forget to label all moving boxes, including those that contain artwork. Place a "Fragile" label on boxes that contain artwork to further minimize the risk of damage during your move.

3. Store Artwork Carefully in a Moving Truck

When moving day arrives, you'll want to do everything possible to guarantee your artwork travels safely from Point A to Point B. If you place artwork on its edges and in a spot where it won't fall over inside a moving truck, you can limit the chance that your artwork will get damaged while in transit.

In addition, you may be able to wedge artwork between heavy objects in a moving truck. That way, you can secure your artwork throughout the moving cycle.

If you require extra help as you pack your artwork and other belongings, it often pays to hire a professional moving company. This business employs friendly, knowledgeable moving experts who can help you streamline the process of getting all of your belongings to a new address.

Lastly, a real estate agent is happy to put you in touch with moving companies in your area. This housing market professional understands the challenges associated with packing artwork and other items and can provide plenty of support as you get ready for moving day. Furthermore, a real estate agent will ensure anyone can achieve the optimal results during the homebuying or home selling cycle.

Simplify the process of packing up your artwork – use the aforementioned best practices, and you can quickly and effortlessly prepare your artwork for moving day.


Ready to buy a home? You'll likely need a mortgage to ensure you can afford your dream residence. Lucky for you, many banks and credit unions are happy to help you discover a mortgage that suits you perfectly.

Ultimately, meeting with a mortgage lender may seem stressful at first. But this meeting can serve as a valuable learning opportunity, one that allows you to select a mortgage that is easy to understand and matches your budget.

When you meet with a mortgage lender, here are three of the questions to ask so you can gain the insights you need to make an informed decision:

1. What mortgage options are available?

Most lenders offer a broad range of mortgage options. By doing so, these lenders can help you choose a mortgage that meets or exceeds your expectations.

Fixed-rate mortgages represent some of the most popular options for homebuyers, and perhaps it is easy to understand why. These mortgages lock-in an interest rate for a set period of time and ensure your mortgage payments will stay the same throughout the duration of your mortgage.

Meanwhile, adjustable-rate mortgages may prove to be great choices for many homebuyers as well. These mortgages may feature a lower initial interest rate that rises after several years. However, with an adjustable-rate mortgage, you'll know when your mortgage's interest rate will increase and can plan accordingly.

2. Do I need to get pre-approved for a mortgage?

Pre-approval for a mortgage usually is an excellent idea, and for good reason.

If you get pre-approved for a mortgage, you may be able to enter the homebuying market with a budget in mind. That way, you can pursue houses that fall within a set price range and avoid the risk of overspending on a home.

On the other hand, you don't need to be pre-approved for a mortgage to submit an offer on a home. But with a mortgage in hand, you may be able to gain an advantage over the competition, one that might even lead a home seller to select your offer over others.

3. How long will a mortgage last?

Many mortgages last 15- or 30-years – it all depends on the type of mortgage that you select.

A lender can explain the length associated with various mortgage options and highlight the pros and cons associated with these mortgages.

Moreover, you should ask a lender if there are any prepayment penalties if you pay off your mortgage early. This may help you determine whether a particular mortgage is right for you.

When it comes to finding a lender, don't forget to meet with several banks and credit unions. This will allow you to discover a lender that offers a mortgage with a low interest rate. Plus, it enables you to find a lender that makes you feel comfortable.

If you need assistance in your search for the right lender, be sure to reach out to a real estate agent. This housing market professional can provide details about local lenders and ensure you can accelerate your push to acquire your dream residence.


As the workforce changes and a growing number of companies seek out contractors and freelancers, many Americans find themselves in a gray area when it comes to their income. They may put in full-time hours, but on their taxes they work for themselves.

Mortgage lenders are cautious about who they lend to. They want to make sure you are a low-risk investment who has reliable, predictable income to ensure that they’ll earn money off of your loan.

This can sometimes make it difficult for freelancers, contract workers, or the self-employed. Not only might your taxes be unconventional, but your income could vary depending on the time of the year and the amount of business you receive.

It’s easy to see why many people would be anxious about applying for a mortgage under these circumstances. However, if you’re self-employed, there’s no need to worry. You can still get approved for a mortgage at a fair interest rate--you just need to do a bit of work to provide the right documents to your lender.

In this article, we’ll show you what documents and proof of income you’ll likely need and how to present it to a lender to make the process run as smoothly as possible to get you approved for your mortgage. Here’s what you need to do.

Organize your records

Before applying for a mortgage, it’s a good idea to take a look at your record-keeping process. As a self-employed worker, you’re probably already used to tracking your own income. However, this will help the lender analyze your income easier and move the process along more quickly.

Having a master spreadsheet of your dated invoices, paid amounts, and the names of your clients is a good place to start. You’ll also want detailed, easy to read information for your previous employers, landlords, references, and any other information you think will be pertinent.

Next, gather your tax documents for the last three to five years. As a self-employed worker, you likely file a Schedule C (Form 1040) and a Schedule SE. Make sure you have copies of these forms.

Dealing with deductions

Many self-employed workers write off business expenses in their tax returns. Travel expenses, internet, and other costs associated with doing business are all ways to save by reducing your taxable income. Doing so can save you money, but it can also reduce your net income which is what lenders will see when you provide them with your information.

If you’re hoping to get approved for a bigger loan, one solution is to plan your taxes in the year prior to applying for a mortgage. Make fewer deductions than you normally would to increase your net income.

Be ready to clarify

When a mortgage lender is reviewing your information, make sure you are open and available to provide any information that can be helpful to them in considering your application. Being prompt and accurate with your responses will signal to your lender that you are willing to work with them.