New twists on 3 Valentine’s Day favorites


by Kathryn Dean Posted in Homeowner resources /   February 11, 2013

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Roses are red, violets are blue...isn't it time to try something new? If you've been struggling to come up with a creative gift idea for Valentine's Day, this list is for you.

Conversation heartsLet's talk conversation hearts. 
There's nothing more iconically Valentine's Day than conversation hearts, but they're not the tastiest of treats. The folks at theKitchn have found five flavorful ways to reinvent this classic candy.

Everything's coming up roses.
If roses are what your sweetheart wants, then by all means, don't disappoint! However, if you're looking for a fresh take on a fresh flower bouquet, you have a variety of store-bought and homemade options. For the sweet-toothed, there are cookie bouquets, cake pop bouquets and other Edible Arrangements®. Want to make a more lasting impression? Try handcrafted paper flowers or live plants.

The best bouquet, however, is one that reflects your valentine's own personal tastes—whether that's a favorite flower, an assortment of teas, or something as simple as warm, comfy socks

Think outside the box (of chocolates).
It's hard to go wrong with chocolates, assuming your significant other likes them. But, you can put a creative spin on this old standby by changing up either the chocolates or the box.

The chocolate: Chocolate isn't just for candy anymore. Today, you can find chocolate in everything from soap and candles to wine and pasta. If you have a chocoholic on your hands, here's your chance to get creative!

The box: The classic heart-shaped candy box can hide a variety of romantic surprises. Instead of chocolates, fill the inside with something that will appeal to your loved one's interests:

  • An assortment of paints for an artist
  • Embroidery flosses for a stitcher
  • Ear buds and other mp3 player accessories for a music lover
  • Memory cards or USB drives for a technophile
  • Golf balls and tees for a golfer
  • Fresh herbs or spices for a gourmet
  • Other little indulgences like bath salts, lip balms or nail polishes 

Remember, there's nothing more romantic than a gift that shows how well you know the person you love!

Renting vs. buying in 2013


by Julia Miller Posted in For buyers /   February 4, 2013

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The real estate landscape is quite different than it was at this time last year. There's a lot of positive industry buzz in the news, and in many areas, homebuyers are faced with a competitive low inventory resale market. With change in the air, people on the move are once again asking the age-old question, "Is it better to rent or buy?" It depends on your situation, but the answer might surprise you.

The Harper floor plan in Colorado

Interest rates are still low
Rates at the beginning of 2013 are still very low, so if you can secure financing, your monthly mortgage payment is likely to be a very attractive number. If you're debating whether to rent or buy, do your homework. Find a "test case" house online that meets your criteria of location, number of bedrooms, etc. Then run the numbers through a free online calculator. When you're ready, a loan officer can help you get more precise estimates. Call Richmond American's affiliate, HomeAmerican Mortgage, at 866-400-7126.

Rent is still high
It varies by region, but in many areas, the price of rent is still high coming off the demand caused by the downturn in the housing market. It is not unusual for the cost of monthly rent to exceed that of a mortgage payment for a comparable living space. In September of 2012, Trulia.com studied some key market factors to help determine if buying was actually more affordable. Trulia's Chief Economist, Jed Kolko said, "Based on asking prices and rents during the summer of 2012, buying is now 45% cheaper than renting in the 100 largest U.S. Metros, on average—that's a savings of $771 a month."

Personal situations vary
Based on Trulia's numbers, buying a home might seem like the obvious option, but you must always keep your individual situation in mind. How long you plan to live in the area, for example, can factor in to your decision. And while renting has the advantage of less maintenance responsibilities, you lose the chance to build equity. But are you ready to take the next step? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have a reliable source of income that can be documented? Do you have a two-year employment history?
  • Do you have a record for paying bills on time?
  • Can you afford to make payments on outstanding debts, such as school or car loans?

If "yes" is your go-to answer on these questions, you might be ready to buy a home! For more information that could help you make a decision, download our free First-time Homebuyer Guide.

Haven't been in the market for a home in a while? Richmond American has a variety of new home communities with incredible amenities. Start your search »

Other helpful links:

Trulia’s Rent vs. Buy Map (Q2 2011)

Mortgage Loan Information

Yahoo! Homes Rent vs. Buy Calculator

Finance Calculator

How to buy a home

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