Renovation vs. Remodel: What’s the Difference?

If you’re a homeowner considering a range of home improvements, you may not know if what you’re planning is a renovation or a remodel. Does it matter? Yes, because there are key differences.

A renovation is an update of an existing room or structure, while a remodel affects the design and purpose of an area. The more extensive work in a remodel will influence the cost and length of your project.

What Is a Renovation?

During a renovation, one or more rooms are updated and repaired. This might include new cabinets, flooring, and paint.

The bones of the room are typically left intact, though some structural issues may be fixed in a renovation, such as replacing rotting wood or swapping out window frames suffering from water damage.

A kitchen renovation might include replacing appliances, faucets, and knobs, while a bedroom reno might call for paint, new rugs, or new lighting.

Bathroom renovations often involve installing new tile, towel racks, and faucets.

Recommended: Home Improvement Cost Calculator

Advantages of a Renovation

Renovations are typically less costly than remodels, thanks to several factors.

You Can DIY

If you’re handy, you can slash some of the cost of hiring someone to undertake your renovation by doing some of the work yourself.

Because most renovations don’t require structural changes, you likely won’t be on the hook to hire licensed professionals to get it done. That means anything that you’re capable of—painting, wallpapering, floor sanding—you can do and pocket what it would have cost to hire help.

Just make sure you are skilled enough; hiring a professional to redo what you couldn’t complete may cost you money you didn’t plan on spending.

You May Get a Better Return on Investment

Since a renovation doesn’t call for major expenses like hiring licensed professionals or other construction-related outlays, in some cases the project offers more bang for the buck than a renovation does.

Renovation-related tweaks will still improve the look and feel of your home, and thus increase the value of your home, without the major expense a renovation entails.

You might want to try this handy home improvement ROI estimator.

You Can Expect Fewer Hidden Costs

When you’re renovating a room, your action plan is pretty cut and dry, and there aren’t likely to be surprises that require you to spend more than you planned.

Not so with a remodel, which, due to its scope, may result in additional costs to fix unforeseen problems such as hidden water damage, termites, or asbestos. These surprises can also lengthen the time of your project.

What Is a Remodel?

Remodels are typically more extensive than renovations. They include altering the function and sometimes the structure of an area of the house.

If your project calls for tearing down or adding walls, or changing the layout of a room, you’re planning a remodel.

Some examples of remodels: changing a powder room into a laundry room, knocking down a wall between a dining room and kitchen to create a great room, building an addition to your existing home, or expanding a closet into a dressing room.

Even if you’re not tearing down or adding walls, your project may be a remodel. This might include moving kitchen appliances around to improve room flow, tearing out a tub and installing a walk-in shower in a bathroom, or turning a small guest bedroom into a home office.

Recommended: Closet Remodel Guide

Advantages of a Remodel

Many homeowners find there are pluses to a remodel as opposed to a renovation.

You Have the Opportunity to Customize Your Home

As homeowners grow with their home, they may find that their needs change.

Some may want an addition to accommodate an aging parent, while others may have expanded their families and need to convert a home office into a nursery. Empty-nesters may want to use one of their bedrooms as a study or gym.

A remodel affords them more options than a renovation does because they can make the necessary changes—however major—to achieve their needs.

You May Experience Hidden Benefits

Adding an island to a kitchen and removing a wall to create a larger space might mean more than increased room to prepare meals. You may find your family spends more time together in rooms that are spacious and inviting.

Similarly, retrofitting your heating and cooling system, adding under-floor heating, and replacing insulation might result in lower utility bills, freeing up money for hobbies or vacations.

Why a Remodel May Cost More Than a Renovation

All of that means remodels are costlier than renovations. Here’s why.

You May Need Permits

Thanks to the extensive nature of most remodels, many cities require homeowners to secure a permit before they begin work, especially if the project involves creating an addition to the home, or if new walls or new roofs are being installed. This is to ensure that building codes are followed.

If you need permits, you will want to factor the time it takes to secure them into your timeline. Once the permits are approved, the project may begin. And once it is completed, it will likely need to be approved by a local inspector.

You May Need Professional Help

If your remodel requires electrical, duct, or plumbing work, you will likely need to hire a licensed professional to complete it.

You may also need to hire a general contractor to hire and oversee these workers and others for larger remodels like adding a guest suite to the home or converting an attic to a home office with an en-suite bathroom.

These vendors, while necessary, can be costly since you are paying for their time in addition to any materials.

You May Be Dealing With Construction

While it can be exciting to imagine what your home will look like after a remodel, getting there can be taxing. That’s because you may be living in a construction zone as the project is underway.

It can be difficult to have to eat multiple takeout meals because your kitchen is being worked on, or deal with dust from work being done in the next room over.

If their remodel is especially extensive, some homeowners find they need to rent a home nearby until the remodel has been completed.

Recommended: Average Cost To Remodel

Paying for a Remodel or Renovation

Whether you’re undertaking a renovation or remodel, you’ll want to have a budget and a payment plan. Some renovations are small enough that homeowners can pay upfront.

Those tackling remodels and larger renovations might tap a home equity loan or home equity line of credit, when the home is used as collateral.

An unsecured, fixed-rate home improvement loan is another option.

A cash-out refinance also can free up part of the difference between the mortgage balance and the home’s value.

Recommended: Home Equity Loans vs Personal Loans for Home Improvement

The Takeaway

Undertaking home improvements can be exciting for homeowners. But before you embark on a project, know whether you’re looking at a renovation or a remodel, how much inconvenience you’re willing to put up with, and what you are willing to pay.

SoFi offers no-fee home improvement loans of up to $100,000.

If a cash-out refinance makes more sense, SoFi offers that as well.

Or if you’re in the market for a home loan, SoFi has that covered, too, with competitive rates and options requiring as little as 5% down.

Check your rate and start planning that remodel or renovation.



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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Home Loans
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. SoFi Home Loans are not available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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Source: sofi.com

How to Make Your Home Look Picture Perfect | Apartminty

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Combining Different Fabric Textures and Patterns

It’s amazing how upholstering or even simply covering your furniture with different kinds of fabrics can completely change a room. By playing around with the various textures and fabrics you can put on the sofas, pillows, and rugs, you can breathe new life into your space. With that in mind, we wanted to take a second to talk about how you can combine different fabric textures and patterns when you are designing your home.

How to Combine Different Types of Fabrics and Patterns in Your Home

Most of the rules of interior design aren’t set in stone. However, if you want to give your home some kind of cohesive appearance, here are some tips you can follow.

Pick an Accent Color Early On

Having a single color that appears in several of the patterns and fabrics you’re using in a space is a great way to bring it all together. That’s why it’s important to pick an accent color or even a whole palette early in the design process.

Some people decide to incorporate their accent color into their space by putting it on a wall. But if you want to keep your walls neutral, you can plan the whole room around an accent piece of furniture instead. Even a painting can be the focal point in a room if you make sure the fabrics and patterns you introduce reflect some of the same colors the artist used.

Match Your Patterns to Basic Pieces

If you love to play around with different patterns, you should ideally have a strong anchor piece to tie them to. So if you have a red sofa, you can top it off with a patterned pillow that references that shade. Alternatively, you can layer a complementary color on top by placing a leafy green pillow over a red sofa.

Either way, you’ll want to have some solid basic pieces before you start incorporating crazy patterns. Best of all, this tip can work with all kinds of patterns!

For one, geometric patterns can stand out even in monochromatic spaces. On the other hand, animal print fabrics can spice up even the most boring pieces. Your crisp white bedding can completely transform with a cheetah print throw blanket.

You can also match your patterns and fabrics to the textures of your furniture pieces. Like, if you have a large mahogany dining table in the middle of the room, you wouldn’t want the color of your curtains to clash with the rich brown of the table.

Stick to a Theme

As we have established, the goal of interior design is to make a space seem cohesive. With that in mind, it’s good to have a theme that encompasses the whole room, at least.

Accent colors can help us achieve that, but so can different patterns and fabrics. For example, you can balance out the pattern on your area rug by inserting another element with a similar design. So if your tan carpet features red flowers, you can put some red flowers in a tan vase.

Remember, those patterns don’t have to match, but they should ideally have a similar theme. If you have ticking stripe fabrics on your armchairs, you don’t have to get striped curtains too. Instead, feel free to mix and match with other patterns.

Layer Your Patterns

When it comes to patterns, most people seem to think that less is more. But if you needed a sign that it’s okay to mix several patterns or even put them on top of each other, this is it.

There are ways to mix patterns tastefully. For example, you can get the same pattern in different colors so you’d have green and orange gingham pillows next to each other. Alternatively, you can get pieces with different patterns that feature a similar range of colors. If you have a nature-inspired wallpaper, you can still use polka dot-printed pillows, as long as they’re in a similar shade.

Mix Modern and Vintage Pieces

There’s nothing better than the feeling you get from managing to work your grandma’s old curtains into the design of your home. Those kinds of vintage pieces can bring just the right amount of nostalgia into an otherwise new space.

But remember: using too many vintage items can easily make a space feel outdated. To prevent that, you’ll want to bring some modern elements into the mix.

For example, one way to make an old armchair new is to reupholster it with modern materials. On the other hand, if the original fabric is in good condition, you can make the piece appear more contemporary by adding a flashy throw pillow on top.

Don’t Be Afraid to Break the Rules

As we have previously mentioned, the rules of interior design are by no means set in stone. If anything, the tips we’ve been discussing are more like vague guidelines. Needless to say, you shouldn’t be afraid to experiment and see what works and what doesn’t. After all, there’s more than one way to achieve cohesion.

To prove that point, you just need to look at some examples of eclectic interior design. Whether you opt for a colorful bohemian look or another deceptively chaotic style, mixing different patterns and fabrics can breathe new life into a room. So make your home match your bold personality!

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How to Make Your Home Look Picture Perfect
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How to Make Your Home Look Picture Perfect
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By playing around with the various textures and fabrics you can put on the sofas, pillows, and rugs, you can breathe new life into your space. With that in mind, we wanted to take a second to talk about how you can combine different fabric textures and patterns when you are designing your home
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Source: blog.apartminty.com

The Best Places to Live in Georgia in 2021

Georgia, also known as the Peach State, features everything from fun city amenities like a thriving nightlife and the latest art openings to outdoor opportunities right in your suburban backyard.

It’s no surprise that Georgia has plenty of options for great places to live.

Atlanta’s growing economy with Coca-Cola, Home Depot and Delta Air Lines at the helm entice any visitor to move to the city. Farther south in Macon and Savannah, you can enjoy a growing music scene and fresh seafood, respectively, too.

Georgia provides a full spectrum of experiences for those visiting and considering moving here. Seriously, there are more than 100, just in Atlanta.

To help your search for your next home, here are the best places to live in Georgia, arranged in alphabetical order:

Alpharetta, Georgia.

  • Population: 67,213
  • Median household income: $113,802
  • Average commute time: 29 minutes
  • Walk score: 30
  • Studio average rent: N/A
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,635
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $2,052

The Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta continues to make the best places to live lists, thanks to its vibrant culinary spots, shopping districts like Avalon, thriving tech and manufacturing industries and of course, education.

The city offers easy access to the airport, only 35 miles south via GA-400. You can head on your way to your next business trip or vacation in no time.

If you’re looking for the outdoors, you’re also less than 45 minutes from the North Georgia Mountains and cabin towns like Blue Ridge and Ellijay.

Downtown Alpharetta offers a walkable experience with boutiques, breweries and fine dining establishments lining the streets. Every weekend, the city comes down to stock up on local offerings at the Alpharetta Farmer’s Market.

With a one-bedroom average rent of under $1,700, you can find an affordable place with good schools nearby in Alpharetta.

Find apartments for rent in Alpharetta
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Athens, Georgia.

  • Population: 126,913
  • Median household income: $38,311
  • Average commute time: 19.4 minutes
  • Walk score: 35
  • Studio average rent: $712
  • One-bedroom average rent: $739
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,259

Sure, when you hear Athens, you think of the University of Georgia and the accompanying football tailgating. However, the city has more to offer than college fun.

While Athens is a small city, it does come with a great perk — affordability. You can rent a one-bedroom for $739 a month on average.

You also have access to arts and entertainment, thanks to Athens’ thriving music scene. Check out your favorite entertainer at the Georgia Theatre or discover a new one at the intimate 40 Watt Club.

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia and Sandy Creek Park offer opportunities to enjoy the mild Georgia weather and nature. End your weekend with a pint from local brewery Creature Comforts — yes, the one you saw in Thor’s hand during the last “Avengers” movie.

Find apartments for rent in Athens

Atlanta, GA.

  • Population: 506,811
  • Median household income: $59,948
  • Average commute time: 27.2 minutes
  • Walk score: 55
  • Studio average rent: $1,605
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,655
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $2,140

From Fortune 500 companies to good music and food, Atlanta has plenty to offer as one of the best cities to live in Georgia. With more than half a million residents, the city has a diverse community that provides everything from an indie clothing store to large coffee chains.

Atlanta’s 45 neighborhoods all have their unique personality. You can find a luxury condo in Midtown or a charming craftsman home in Grant Park — just minutes from each other. Depending on the neighborhood, your walk score may improve, but you’ll have access to city parks and local dining options that range from Mexican to Italian and Ethiopian.

With those city amenities come high rent prices — you can find a studio on average for $1,605 a month. Keep in mind that easy access to MARTA rail and the bus line can help you skip long commutes at the end of the day.

Find apartments for rent in Atlanta
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Augusta, Georgia.

  • Population: 197,888
  • Median household income: $42,592
  • Average commute time: 21.1 minutes
  • Walk score: 33
  • Studio average rent: $1,000
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,013
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,153

While many know Augusta for the annual Masters golf tournament, its residents enjoy a rich history, a charming downtown and a growing economy year-round. The walk along the Savannah River in downtown Augusta indeed shows the beauty of the city.

The Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art and the Augusta Museum of History give you a glimpse of this Southern city’s history. The Summerville neighborhood has some of the most beautiful historic homes, preserved thanks to a local ordinance, with large columns and manicured lawns.

On the weekends, you can explore Broad Street and its small boutiques and restaurants on foot. During the warm months, the Augusta Market brings local artisans to the Savannah River’s River Walk park.

From tapas to nightlife, you can find it all here.

Find apartments for rent in Augusta

Columbus, Georgia.

  • Population: 195,769
  • Median household income: $46,408
  • Average commute time: 20.6 minutes
  • Walk score: 35
  • Studio average rent: $553
  • One-bedroom average rent: $833
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $983

For those looking into affordable living, Columbus tops our list of best places to live in Georgia. You can get a two-bedroom apartment in the city for under $1,000 per month on average.

Only 90 minutes from Atlanta, Columbus is an outdoor lover’s paradise with the Chattahoochee River flowing nearby. The river provides incredible opportunities to whitewater one of the country’s longest courses and even zipline across it.

Elsewhere in the city, you can find a farmers market, artists market and free concert series set up in the downtown area.

The Springer Opera House features some of the best talents throughout annual performances and leads one of the most prominent theatre programs in the Southeast.

The city is also home to Fort Benning and the National Infantry Museum, the only one of its kind in the U.S.

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Decatur, Georgia.

Photo source: Agnes Scott College
  • Population: 25,696
  • Median household income: $106,088
  • Average commute time: 27.3 minutes
  • Walk score: 39
  • Studio average rent: $1,323
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,403
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,587

The city of Decatur is only about five square miles, but it packs a lot of goodness. With three MARTA rail stations and a robust bike lane program, you can easily navigate the city without a car.

Agnes Scott College, an acclaimed women-only liberal arts college, provides interesting arts programming for residents to enjoy.

Only a few miles from downtown Atlanta and high-quality schools, Decatur’s housing is highly sought out. You can find a two-bedroom on average for $1,587 per month.

However, you’ll have access to some of the best restaurants in Georgia, like Kimball House, Leon’s Full Service and Brush Izakaya, along with regular community events in the square.

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Macon, Georgia.

  • Population: 153,159
  • Median household income: $41,334
  • Average commute time: 21.3 minutes
  • Walk score: 35
  • Studio average rent: $610
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,050
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,172

Right at the heart of the Peach State and only two hours from Atlanta, Macon is a hub of job opportunities, higher education options like Mercer University and, of course, entertainment on the weekends.

Warner Robins, 20 miles away, offers job opportunities at the Robins Air Force Base as one of the state’s largest employers. Plus, your average commute time hovers around 20 minutes.

Downtown Macon features new, cool boutiques as well as iconic places that have regulars. Listen to the latest tunes at Fresh Produce Records and then hop to the Tubman Museum, an essential visit.

To learn more about Macon’s music history, The Little Richard House and Otis Redding Museum are both must-see stops for music lovers.

Find apartments for rent in Macon

Marietta, Georgia.

  • Population: 60,867
  • Median household income: $57,452
  • Average commute time: 28.5 minutes
  • Walk score: 31
  • Studio average rent: $1,018
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,162
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,426

One of Cobb County’s gems, Marietta, offers good schools, a tight-knit community and rich history. Marietta City Schools hosts a diverse student body with high rankings in the state.

Near Marietta Square, a hub for most community events, you can find the Marietta Museum of History in a preserved 1845 warehouse building. There are a few other historical sites within the city center like the William Root House Museum & Garden and Kennesaw Mountain.

Not too far, at Truist Park, you can cheer on the Atlanta Braves and enjoy a meal at The Battery.

While Atlanta’s infamous traffic can keep you on I-75 for longer than you want, the average person commutes nearly 30 minutes to work.

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Sandy Springs, Georgia.

  • Population: 109,452
  • Median household income: $78,613
  • Average commute time: 26.1 minutes
  • Walk score: 44
  • Studio average rent: N/A
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,630
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $2,007

Sandy Springs’ proximity to downtown Atlanta, Buckhead’s business district and the outdoors makes it one of the best places to live in Georgia. You’ll also have to the public transportation via the MARTA rail to avoid the 26-minute average commute.

The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area and 16 city parks offer plenty of opportunities to get outside, explore new trails and even go on a kayak or two. You can also find Vickery Creek Falls nearby in Roswell.

For those into nightlife, you can check out Battle & Brew as well as plays at the City Springs Theatre Company and Act 3 Productions.

You can find a one-bedroom in the area for $1,630 a month on average.

If you’re looking for close proximity to the action while keeping a little quiet at home, this is the place for you.

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Savannah, Georgia.

  • Population: 144,464
  • Median household income: $43,307
  • Average commute time: 20.5 minutes
  • Walk score: 46
  • Studio average rent: $1,244
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,197
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,346

Home to River Street and the Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah’s Spanish moss-lined streets take you back to the past. The city’s downtown grid street system makes it incredibly walkable and easily enjoyable.

Despite all of the ghost stories and dark past, the city has plenty to offer delicious dining options, museums and outdoor opportunities. You can both enjoy fresh oysters on River Street next to the water and not too far, walk around the area that inspired the “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” book.

The Port of Savannah played an essential role in local cotton and tobacco industries following its opening in 1744. These days, the port is a historic landmark and one of the fastest-growing ports in the country.

If you want a hop and a skip from Tybee Island, you can find a two-bedroom apartment for $1,346 a month on average.

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Find your own best place to live in Georgia

Georgia’s four seasons, affordability and growing economy have attracted people from all over. It’s no surprise that the Peach State has several great cities to pick from.

Whether you’re looking to relocate with your job or just looking for a new city to love, Georgia’s Southern charm and delicious food will reel you in.

Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com’s multifamily rental property inventory of one-bedroom apartments in March 2021. Our team uses a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each individual unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.
Other demographic data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.

Source: rent.com

16 Best Ways to Save Money at Pottery Barn in 2021 – Discounts & Sales

If you’ve ever gone shopping for home decor, furniture, and bedding, you’ve probably visited a Pottery Barn.

The Williams Sonoma subsidiary is best known for its upscale products and stunning floor displays. Since its founding in 1949, Pottery Barn has branched out into Pottery Barn Kids and Pottery Barn Teens to appeal to a wider audience.

Despite these changes, Pottery Barn has always maintained a premium status for their brand. But if you’re shopping on a tight budget, there are numerous creative ways to save money at Pottery Barn.

Between in-store hacks and ways to save money on furniture and home furnishings, you probably don’t have to pay full price when you hit up this popular retailer.

Best Ways to Save Money at Pottery Barn

Pottery Barn is unlikely to compete on pricing with more affordable retailers like Ikea. But you don’t have to pay full price just because a store is stylish.

Many money-saving Pottery Barn hacks can help you make your next home furnishings upgrade affordable without sacrificing quality.

1. Join The Key Loyalty Program

The easiest saving trick every shopper can use is to join The Key member rewards program. This loyalty program extends to Williams Sonoma’s family of brands, meaning it covers Williams Sonoma and Pottery Barns along with Mark and Graham, and West Elm.

Joining The Key is free. You start by picking your favorite brand and then sign up for The Key through that brand’s website. To sign up, provide your name, email, address, phone number, and birthday.

Once you’re a member, benefits include:

  • Earring 3% cash back across the family of brands
  • Getting exclusive access to new deals and releases
  • Using Pottery Barn and Williams Sonoma’s free design service

You can redeem cash back as store credit across any Williams Sonoma family store once you reach $15. You can use cash-back rewards from The Key program with your cash-back credit card rewards to increase your savings, and you can redeem your balance online or in-store.

2. Follow Local Stores on Social Media

You can follow Pottery Barn on social media if you want general updates about sales and country-wide initiatives. However, truly frugal shoppers are better off following their local stores.

Local store pages are useful for several reasons. For starters, you can reference them to find store hours or a contact number and to check whether the store’s open on holidays.

Additionally, local stores post photos of their inventory and sales. That’s when you can find specific pieces on clearance or products that are only in stock at your preferred location.

But note that not every Pottery Barn has a local Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

3. Sign Up for Pottery Barn Emails

If you want a low-effort way to save, sign up for the Pottery Barn email list.

Subscribers receive information about exclusive sales and promotions, so you can wait for a sale or event before you shop. You also learn about new Pottery Barn products and upcoming store events.

4. Use Online Pottery Barn Coupons

Another trick to save money at Pottery Barn is to use online coupons.

There are numerous online coupon databases you can search for deals, including:

These websites let you activate online coupon codes before shopping, potentially earning percent discounts and perks like free shipping.

Similarly, you can also use shopping browser extensions for online shopping to automatically apply available coupons at checkout. Two popular browser extensions that work with Pottery Barn are Capital One Shopping and Honey.

Both extensions apply coupon codes at checkout, ensuring you don’t miss out on savings. Both platforms also let you earn rewards by shopping at hundreds of partner retailers.

An advantage of using extensions over coupon websites is that you don’t waste time manually searching for coupon codes on the Internet. However, it’s important to note that coupon codes don’t always work, and you might find a particular website or extension works better for you than others.

Capital One Shopping compensates us when you get the Capital One Shopping extension using the links we provided.

5. Shop With Discount Gift Cards

If you shop at Pottery Barn frequently or are planning a shopping spree, buying discount gift cards is a simple way to save more money.

People regularly sell unwanted gift cards to marketplaces that then resell them at a discount. Usually, discounts range from 1% to 2%, so you can buy a $50 Pottery Barn gift card for around $48.

That’s not a lot, but for larger purchases, discount percentages often increase. For example, on some discount gift card websites, you can find $100 and $500 Pottery Barn gift cards with $10 to $20 discounts.

Some popular gift card marketplaces include:

Gift card availability and denominations vary based on supply and demand. Raise generally has the most extensive collection, and you can usually find Pottery Barn gift cards ranging from $25 to $100.

Plus, new members get a 10% discount bonus with the coupon code “FIRST” for a maximum savings of $20.

Since more significant discounts provide the most savings, the key is to plan your Pottery Barn shopping trip. That way, you know exactly how much money you need and don’t overspend on gift cards.

6. Understand Shipping Rates

At Pottery Barn, shipping costs depend on your total order price and whether you want standard shipping or next-day shipping. Standard shipping arrives in four to five business days and upgrading to next-day costs $26.

To potentially save more, consult Pottery Barn’s shipping rates and fees table. For orders under $200, you’re looking at up to $21 in shipping fees. However, orders of $200.01 or more charge 10% in shipping until you reach $3,000 or more, at which point shipping costs drop to 5% of your total order value.

If you’re on a massive Pottery Barn shopping spree, consider what a 5% or 10% shipping rate does to your bill.

For example, at $2,900, you’re looking at $290 in shipping costs. However, spending $100 more to reach $3,000 brings shipping costs to $150, netting you $40 in total savings.

If you’re close to a shipping-reduction threshold but don’t need anything else, ask friends and family if they need anything or think about any upcoming gifts for birthdays and holidays. But crunch the numbers.

If buying a low-cost product still saves you significant cash, it’s worth it. You can always donate unwanted merchandise and get a charitable donation tax deduction. Just check the sale and clearance section for deals.

Finally, look for products that are available for pickup when shopping online. If you live near a Pottery Barn, making the drive is probably worth it to avoid paying for shipping.

7. Shop on Clearance

If you want to find Pottery Barn products at a discount, your best bet is to wait for a clearance sale or floor sales event.

Pottery Barn’s website has a sales section, so you can begin your search for deals online. But visiting your local Pottery Barn allows you to find markdown products the retailer doesn’t advertise online.

Occasionally, Pottery Barn also sells floor models during floor sales events. That includes furniture and other inventory previously used for in-store displays, which the company can’t sell as new. This inventory often has minor scratches or dents but is sold at a discount.

If you don’t mind buying furniture with a potential scratch or two, floor sales are worth keeping an eye on. Alternatively, check the online clearance section regularly to look for deals.

8. Shop Off-Season

Chances are you’ve tried shopping off-season to save money on clothing or back-to-school supplies. But have you ever considered shopping off-season for home decor?

Like other retailers, Pottery Barn rotates their floor displays and inventory to match the upcoming season. So you can buy a set of summer linens and bright throw pillows as you enter the fall to save money in the long run.

9. Visit a Pottery Barn Outlet Store

Pottery Barn has several outlet stores where you can find floor models, returns, overstocked inventory, and slightly damaged or worn inventory it can’t sell in regular stores.

Essentially, outlet stores help Pottery Barn liquidate excess and gently used merchandise, which means you can potentially find discounts.

Currently, the following states have one or more outlet locations:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Missouri
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia

Just remember: Outlet prices aren’t always lower than the regular retailer, and you should also factor travel time into your bargain hunt. When in doubt, call ahead and ask for specific pricing on pieces you’re considering and for a store attendant to check product availability.

You can also sign up for Pottery Barn Outlet emails to receive outlet store-specific newsletters about new product arrivals and deals.

10. Buy Gently Used Pottery Barn Products

If you don’t live near an outlet, you can shop at companies that resell used and like-new Pottery Barn products at lower prices.

Several websites where you can find used Pottery Barn products include:

You can also shop on auction sites like eBay if you don’t mind bidding and potentially negotiating with sellers.

Selection can be limited when looking at resellers, but the effort is worth it if you find your next living room set or coffee table for half the price.

11. Use the Pottery Barn or Other Cash-Back Credit Card

The Pottery Barn credit card is perfect if you’re a serious Pottery Barn shopper. There are zero fees and plenty of perks. For example:

  • Earn 10% back for shopping at Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, and Pottery Barn Teens when you spend $250 or more on a single purchase.
  • Receive early access to sales, limited-edition collaborations, and information on new arrivals.
  • Shop for $0 down with 12 months of financing on purchases of $750 or more.

The 10% back in reward points is the primary selling point for this card. For example, if you spend $3,000 redesigning your living room, that’s $300 in rewards — not bad for a no-fee credit card.

However, you must spend $250 in one transaction to get the reward, which severely limits the usefulness of this card if you don’t spend much money on your Pottery Barn trips.

If that’s the case, shop with some type of cash-back credit card to maximize savings.

Cards like the Chase Freedom Unlimited® (read our Chase Freedom Unlimited review) and American Express Blue Cash Preferred® card (read our American Express Blue Cash Preferred review)  are excellent options that have welcome bonuses and cash-back rewards for everyday spending, making them a better choice if you don’t frequently shop at Pottery Barn.

12. Take Advantage of the Military Discount

If you’re an active military member or veteran, you and your family can take advantage of Pottery Barn’s 15%-off military discount. This discount also applies to Pottery Barn Kids and Teens as well as Williams Sonoma.

Plus, military members also get 10% off on electronics at Williams Sonoma.

13. Create an Online Registry

If you have an upcoming wedding or want to save money on newborn expenses, Pottery Barn has registries you can use to save money.

The Pottery Barn wedding registry helps your wedding guests shop for gifts you’re actually going to use. Plus, you can add products from any retailer in the Williams Sonoma family of brands to a single registry.

You can also ask a registry expert to help you craft a registry list that suits your style.

After the wedding date, you get a 10% completion discount for up to six months, meaning you have six months to buy out the remaining merchandise on your registry at a discount.

The baby registry from Pottery Barn Kids works the same way, except you get a 20% completion bonus.

14. Save on your New Move

Paying for moving supplies to pack and ship all your stuff adds up fast.

Thankfully, Pottery Barn has several incentives to help keep moving costs down. For starters, you get $15 off when you spend $75 or more on Sherwin-Williams paint.

Since 2 gallons of Sherwin-Williams paint typically costs between $75 and $150, depending on the paint type, that’s generally enough to paint an average-size room if you’re applying two coats.

Note that Sherwin-Williams is on the pricier side, so unless you’re in love with one of its colors or need high-quality paint to cover up darker colors, brands like Behr and Valspar are typically more budget-friendly.

You can also sign up for the New Mover Program to receive a welcome catalog and design advice for your new home. Pottery Barn also offers free design services to new movers.

However, the best part of the moving program is the installation service. The retailer can mount your TV, hang curtains, paint your new home, and assist with other installation and assembly for a small fee.

First, verify the Pottery Barn in your area offers this service. Then get a quote and compare the price to hiring another professional or doing the work yourself.

15. Use the Pottery Barn Employee Discount

Pottery Barn employees get up to 40% off regularly priced merchandise and an additional 20% off on clearance. So if you’re looking for a side gig and have a redesign project coming up, applying to Pottery Barn could be worth it.

Plus, you can use the extra money to help pay for your upcoming project and take the sting out of paying for it with your regular paycheck.

The Williams Sonoma family of brands hires throughout the year, especially during the holidays, so keep an eye out for job postings if you’re considering this saving trick.

16. DIY Pottery Barn Knockoffs

Crafty shoppers might be better off getting creative than paying higher prices for official Pottery Barn items.

If you’re open to a DIY project, start by searching for Pottery Barn knockoffs on Pinterest. A single search yields hundreds of knockoff ideas, tutorials, and decor ideas you can use to transform your home while staying on budget.

Some design bloggers also focus on knockoff DIYs. Knock Off Decor has a category that’s full of Pottery Barn DIY projects that can save you money.

Often, these projects involve purchasing more affordable materials from places like the dollar store or a local hardware store. Some projects simply involve upcycling existing pieces of furniture to match Pottery Barn’s aesthetic.

Just remember to consider your time and level of experience before taking on a DIY project. If you can score massive savings and enjoy working with your hands, the knock-off route is one of the best ways to decorate your home on a budget.

But if you’re busy or just all thumbs, it’s probably a waste of time.


Final Word

Saving money and scoring discounts probably aren’t the first things that come to mind when you think of Pottery Barn. But it’s possible.

However, you should still shop around, especially if you have a massive home renovation project coming up. Retailers like Wayfair, Overstock, Crate & Barrel, and even general retailers like Target often carry cheaper alternatives to Pottery Barn products.

You might have to get creative and mix and match products from different retailers to achieve that Pottery Barn aesthetic. But if shopping at Pottery Barn alternatives saves you money and matches your design vision, it’s worth the effort.

If you’re committed to Pottery Barn, give yourself as much time as you can when planning your home makeover. If you can wait a few months for a clearance event or for specific pieces to go on sale, you can furnish your home with high-quality furniture and home decor without spending a fortune.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Everything You Need to Know About Bill Gates’ Extraordinary House, Xanadu 2.0

Not many houses have their own Wikipedia page. But then again, few residences have owners with a net worth greater than the GDP of over 100 countries.

Once the richest man in the world, the Microsoft co-founder is now #4 on the list of wealthiest people, surpassed only by Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and French LVMH founder, Bernard Arnault. Bill Gates’ net worth is a mind-boggling $130 billion, though in recent years he’s stepped aside from most of his business endeavors to run the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest private charitable foundation.

Despite his vast wealth, Bill Gates didn’t stray too far from home. Born and raised in Seattle, WA, the billionaire lives in a 66,000-square-foot mansion built into a hillside overlooking Lake Washington in Medina — a small city on the opposite shore from Seattle. Ironically, the tiny city (which had a population of just under 3,000 people at the 2010 census) is also home to fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos.

Bill Gates house near Seattle, Washington
Bill Gates’ home near Seattle, Washington. Image credit: house via reddit, snapshot via Wikimedia Commons, author Simon Davis/DFID

Gates’ house — which goes by the name of Xanadu 2.0, after the fictional home of Charles Foster Kane, the title character of Orson Welles’ infamous Citizen Kane — is worth well over $100 million and boasts some unique features worthy of its owner’s deep pockets. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

The house has almost as many kitchens as it has bedrooms

The massive 66,000-square-foot home fits many rooms with very different uses between its numerous walls. To list some of the most conventional ones first, Gates’ house has 7 bedrooms, 24 bathrooms (yes, you read that right, that equals over three bathrooms for each bedroom suite), and an impressive total of 6 kitchens.

If you think that’s one burner stove too many, it will make more sense once you learn that the billionaire’s home has a 2,300-square-foot reception hall that can accommodate up to 200 people. The dining room alone sits 24.

There’s also a 60-foot pool, a 1,500-square-foot art deco theater, and a 1-bedroom guest house where Gates reportedly wrote his book, The Road Ahead, while the main house was still being built.

Another unique feature is a massive 2,500-square-foot fitness facility that has a trampoline room with a 20-foot ceiling (which tells you quite a bit about the billionaire’s favorite way to blow off some steam). It also has a sauna, steam room, and separate men’s and women’s locker rooms.

Xanadu 2.0’s most striking room is the library

An avid reader whose book lists hold headlines every year, Bill Gates made sure his house has with a massive — and downright impressive — library.

bill gates in his home office
While images from inside of Bill Gates’ home are hard to come by, Netflix’s documentary Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates gave us a sneak peak of how the billionaire lives. Pictured here: Bill Gates in his home office. Image credit: Saeed Adyani courtesy of Netflix

From a design perspective, the paneled library spans 2,100 square feet and features a domed reading room and two secret pivoting bookcases, one of which was fitted with a bar. At the base of the dome, there’s a memorable quote inscribed, taken from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby. It reads, “He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close he could hardly fail to grasp it.”

But the value of the room extends beyond its design, to the books and manuscripts you’ll find inside. Among them is Leonardo da Vinci’s 16th-century collection of scientific writings, the Codex Leicester, which Gates purchased for a whopping $30.8 million.

Bill Gates’ house is as tech-heavy as you’d expect

As you’d probably expect from a man who once revolutionized the world of personal computers, the Microsoft cofounder’s home is heavy on tech, incorporating some very unique uses for technology.

The house features an estate-wide server system, a 60-foot swimming pool with an underwater music system, and about $80,000 worth of computer screens lined up around the house to display art. In fact, visitors and guests of Gates mansion are given devices (worth an extra $150,000) to pick and choose their favorite paintings or photographs to display.

According to Business Insider, the house also comes with a high-tech sensor system helps guests monitor each room’s climate and lighting. When visiting Gates’ house, guests receive a pin that interacts with the sensors, allowing them to change temperature and lighting settings as they see fit. Moreover, there are also speakers hidden behind the wallpaper, which means music can follow visitors as they move from one room to the next.

The house took 7 years to build

In a tribute to its moniker (the word Xanadu is defined as an idealized place of great or idyllic magnificence and beauty), Bill Gates’ home is an architectural feat that took 7 years — and lots of manpower — to complete.

Bill Gates' house as seen in summer 2015 from Lake Washington.
Bill Gates’ house as seen in summer 2015 from Lake Washington. Image credit: Dllu via Wikimedia Commons.

Xanadu 2.0’s architecture, a modern design in the Pacific lodge style, is the result of the combined efforts of Cutler-Anderson Architects and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson. Ironically, the latter is most known for creating the signature aesthetic of the Apple Stores.

What sets it aside is that it’s also an “earth-sheltered house”, which means it uses its natural surroundings as walls for temperature and to reduce heat loss.

According to an older report, the house was built with 500-year-old Douglas fir timbers rescued from an ancient lumber mill, painstakingly sanded and refinished. In total, half a million board feet of lumber was used during construction.

More homes with famous owners

“Neverland” No More! The Past & Present of Michael Jackson’s Former Home
The Mysterious Allure of Stephen King’s House, the Beating Heart of Bangor, Maine
The Three (Tragic) Lives of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin HouseErnest Hemingway’s Iconic House in Key West Stands Tall and Mighty After 170 Hurricane Seasons

Source: fancypantshomes.com

5 Reasons You Should Pay for a Pre-Drywall Inspection

When building a new home, there are architectural requirements along with city and state codes that the builder must follow; and while general builder inspections are required along the way, it’s still a good idea to pay for your own inspections, especially the pre-drywall inspection. 

If you’re building (or thinking about building) a new home, congratulations! Unlike buying an existing home, you get to select everything you want from top to bottom, inside and out, to create your dream home. We’re currently building our new home and recently had our pre-drywall inspection. You usually don’t hear much about these kinds of inspections, so I wanted to share with you why we did a pre-drywall inspection, and what we learned.

pre-drywall inspectionpre-drywall inspection
Our soon to be new home!

Isn’t the Builder’s Pre-Drywall Inspection Enough?

During the builder’s inspection, the builder will go over anything you added during the design process,  explain how things work, and show you where things are located inside your walls before the drywall is added. It’s the perfect time to ask questions — but what if you don’t know what to ask? This is where a pre-drywall inspection is beneficial.

Think of it as more of a pre-drywall “walk through”  and not so much of a traditional inspection. The purpose is to look at every aspect of the home, not just the pretty parts. If there are potential issues with the foundation, plumbing, electrical or roof, it’s better to address them sooner and not after signing the papers and moving in.

(READ MORE: The Pros and Cons of Building vs. Buying as a First-time Homeowner)

What the Process Looked Like for Us

We used Chad Brittingham with Cardinal Home Inspections, LLC out of Charleston, SC. The timing of this inspection was perfect because we scheduled to meet with the builder for their pre-drywall walk through a few days later.

Mr. Brittingham went through the house several times and with each pass, looked at different building aspects. The first pass involved the foundation, followed by framing, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, and the roof. We walked with him and he explained the reason for certain building items, pointed out any issues and took pictures for his report, and also took the time to explain how certain systems worked. As an inspector, his job was to comb through the fine details and find potential issues that we as buyers may overlook because we just don’t know. 

pre-drywall inspectionpre-drywall inspection
Chad Brittingham, home inspector, testing the window function.

5 Benefits of a Pre-Drywall Inspection

  1. It can address any issues: Once the drywall is installed it will be more challenging to fix any issues involving the internal items behind the drywall. Cracks in foundation, poor building materials, mold, etc., will simply be a lot harder to see later.
  2. It can check on any modifications you added during your design meeting: We added recessed lighting to some rooms, extra outlets, a security light and a few other things. But, during our pre-drywall inspection, we discovered that a few of those items were not there. It’s a lot easier to add them before the dry wall; like the builder put it, it would be like doing surgery on your house and then leaving scars!
  3. You can visualize where important pieces are in your wall: Word of advice, take pictures. When you move in and you need to find a stud, you’ll have a better idea where they are located within the wall. Most importantly, you’ll know where plumbing, gas lines, and electrical lines are located so you can avoid them before you hang anything or secure anything to your walls. 
pre-drywall inspectionpre-drywall inspection
Taking pictures before hanging drywall will help you avoid any costly repairs when affixing items to the wall.

4. It can reveal workmanship and materials: While builders have a construction manager who oversees everything, each part is handled by a different subcontractor. Getting a chance to see the work of the electrical team, plumber, roofer, HVAC, etc can not only ensure they’re not only using the proper materials, but that these systems are installed within code.

5. It can protect your investment and your peace of mind: You’ll have a written record of the issues that were found and you can document how it was fixed. This is your home that you’re spending your money on and you want to know that your home is sound. After the inspection was over, we were more confident that we picked a great home for our family.

Man bending over pointing to the floor in partially constructed house. Man bending over pointing to the floor in partially constructed house.
Mr. Brittingham pointing out construction details.

After the Pre-Drywall Inspection: Next Steps

At the end of the pre-drywall inspection, Mr. Brittingham gave us a couple items that he felt were of a greater concern to keep an eye on, but overall felt that the items he found were typical for this stage in the building process. Mr. Brittingham provided us with a full inspection report, including the items he found with pictures of areas that needed to be addressed, which I forwarded to the builder prior to our walkthrough. As the buyer, we definitely felt our inspection better prepared us for the walk through with the builder.

While the builder is bound by certain laws and codes, and their own inspections, the pre-drywall inspection we paid for independently, is acting on our behalf as the buyer. I definitely don’t believe our builder is trying to “slide anything past us,” and we did our research on the builder prior to signing. This was just one more step to further protect our investment, which will ultimately protect our family. 

Need More Home Building Advice?

Be sure to check out the Homes.com “How to Build” section, with videos and articles covering a range of topics that’ll carry you on the building journey from start to finish!


Brooke has a lifestyle blog called Cribbs Style and currently lives in Charleston, SC. This wife, mom of two almost tweens, and mom of three fur children enjoys all things DIY and organizing. When she’s not helping others tackle the chaos of life, she’s either working out, at the beach, or just enjoying time with family and friends.

Source: homes.com

Solid Marks for Gabi Insurance Review

When it comes to my 401(k), daily alarm clock or, yes, even my rotisserie chicken, I’ve embraced the set-it-and-forget-it mantra. But for car insurance? You’re doing yourself a disservice if you aren’t shopping for better car insurance rates at least once a year.

That’s what makes tools like Gabi so helpful. In our Gabi insurance review, we’ll weigh the pros and cons of using an insurance comparison tool, instead of directly working with insurance agents, when shopping for new car insurance rates.

What Is Gabi Insurance?

Gabi Insurance is a newcomer to the insurance scene. The San Francisco insurance company was founded in 2016, four years after The Zebra (another car insurance comparison site that I had mixed feelings about; get the full scoop in my Zebra car insurance review). While Gabi is known primarily for its auto insurance quotes, users can also rely on Gabi to compare insurance providers for renters insurance, home insurance, condo insurance, landlord insurance and umbrella insurance. (I could not find an option for life insurance.)

Gabi is a fully licensed insurance broker in 50 states plus the District of Columbia, meaning they can underwrite, price and sell policies and handle claims. It also means that, when you generate quotes on the site, you can buy directly on the site. One of the issues with sites like The Zebra is that, after generating your auto insurance quote, you’d have to leave the site and go to the actual insurance company’s site to complete the process.

Gabi works with more than 40 top insurance agencies to help you find the best rate for your car(s), driving history and budget. Among those insurance companies are Nationwide, Travelers, Progressive, Clearcover and Safeco.

Gabi claims it saves drivers an average of $961 per year and can provide quotes in a matter of minutes. It’s time to test those promises.

How Gabi Works: A Review

Getting your Gabi insurance quotes can be relatively painless, depending on the route you take. You have three options:

  1. Don’t provide any of your current auto insurance information.
  2. Provide your car insurance login information.
  3. Upload a PDF of your current auto insurance policy.

Because I’m private by nature (and because I just had the pleasure of dealing with a fraudulent unemployment claim in my name), I was hesitant to provide any login information. I first tried to advance without providing any information, but as we’ll see, this doesn’t get you very far. Eventually, I uploaded a PDF of my policy.

To get a quote for Gabi insurance, you start here.
To get a quote, your journey to cheaper car insurance starts here.

Getting started is easy. First you’ll make your decision re: providing insurance information or not (more on that below). Then you’ll enter your name. (Like I did when reviewing The Zebra, I started the process with the very real, honest name of Joe Schmoe.)

This screenshot shows a portal where Gabi insurance asks what your email is. The reviewer typed in Joe Schmoe.
Mr. Schmoe as he signs up for car insurance quotes.

After providing your name, Gabi will ask for a handful of other contact info: birthday, address, whether you own or rent your home, email address and cell phone number. When asking for the email address, Gabi promises your information is never sold or shared. The Zebra says something similar, yet Geico conveniently sent an email to my inbox addressing me as Joe just minutes after I hit submit on The Zebra’s site.

Gabi Insurance asks for your email address in this screen shot.
Gabi says they won’t share or sell your info; thus far, they’ve held up their end of the bargain.

Contact update: As of two hours after creating my account, I have received one text and two emails from Gabi, but none from any third-party insurance providers. Could it be that Gabi is telling the truth when they say they won’t share or sell your data?

To Provide Insurance Info Or Not to Provide Insurance Info? That Is the Question

That’s what Hamlet said, right?

As I mentioned, in my first attempt at using Gabi’s car insurance comparison platform, I resisted their pleas for my personal info. “They don’t need to know anything about me to build a quote tailored to me,” I foolishly asserted.

But when I got to the magical part where Gabi was supposed to tell me I’m a schmuck who has been paying too much for auto insurance, I was instead given a list of common insurance companies, all with blue buttons that said “View My Quote.”

“Surely I must just click each and see a quote at the ready, despite the platform having no knowledge of my car, driving history or policy preferences,” I told myself. Oh, Joe Schmoe, what a fool you are.

Gabi Insurance shows various options that can help you save money in this screen shot.
When you don’t provide your current insurance policy to Gabi, this is the type of screen you can expect to see.

I quickly learned, upon clicking into Liberty Mutual, Allstate and Progressive, that giving Gabi such limited info meant the site would merely direct me to individual insurance companies to provide more detailed personal information to generate a quote.

That’s right: In that instance, Gabi serves no purpose, because you must start from scratch on every insurance company’s site to compare.

If you’re unwilling to provide either your login info for your current insurance company or a PDF of your auto insurance policy, then Gabi is not right for you.

In the name of research, I decided I was comfortable enough downloading a copy of my policy from Allstate and then uploading it into Gabi. While it does have some personal data within it, my email and password were still safe with me.

It took only a few seconds for the artificial intelligence on Gabi’s site to read my policy and tell me in intricate detail what those pages contained. (This is either really convenient for insurance shoppers or a warning sign that robots are just days away from taking over.)

From there, I was able to input more personal information about myself as a driver, my partner (who is also on my policy) and our car. I tried to remove my partner for a good five minutes just for kicks and eventually gave up. Later on, I learned if I had just waited a few more clicks, I would have had the option of toggling secondary drivers on and off. If Gabi had made that clear, it would have saved me time and frustration.

Actually generating my quotes did take about a minute, which is notably fast. However, I had just used The Zebra a few days before, and that experience was faster, so Gabi seemed slow by comparison.

The Car Insurance Quotes I Got from Gabi

I was pleasantly surprised to see a few insurance agencies whose names I recognized among my top results. And the savings were quite large.

Gabi provides more insurance companies that can help you save money.
My top auto insurance quotes from the Gabi insurance comparison platform.

My top quote came from Stillwater and would save me $622 a year. I was dubious upon seeing that, so I clicked into the “View Details” portion of the quote and did find some discrepancies. The largest: My property damage coverage dropped from $500,000 with my current policy to $100,000 with this potential new policy.

Still, the changes were so minor that it ultimately felt like a good deal. But buyer beware: You shouldn’t necessarily expect your current policy and quoted policy to be one-to-one. Go through and make sure all the coverages you want are still represented by the new policy.

Quotes two and three purported to save me $573 and $468 a year, respectively, but again, those quotes weren’t an apples-to-apples comparison with my current policy, as some of the coverages differed.

That said, all three quotes were large improvements over my current auto insurance. My current auto policy is bundled with my homeowners insurance and thus linked to my escrow, so I’ve got some calls to make, but I can safely say I will be using Gabi again soon to find a better bundled policy for auto insurance and home insurance.

What We Like About Gabi Insurance

Clearly, as someone who has just publicly stated he’ll be using Gabi to generate a real quote down the road, I’m a fan. Here’s some of what I liked about Gabi:

  • You don’t have to leave the site. If you find a quote you like, you are able to purchase the insurance on Gabi’s own platform, as long as you are in the United State, since Gabi is a fully licensed insurance broker.
  • It’s got an easy-to-read gauge during the process. It’s a small thing, but I can’t breeze past a good website UX when I see one. I found Gabi’s top-of-the-page tracker for percentage of completion to be a nice touch, especially for a site that is all about efficiency in generating a quote.
Gabi shows how far along you've made it in the process.
Gabi makes it easy to see how far along you are in the process.
  • Uploading my policy was easy. Assuming you want your new coverage at the same or similar levels you’re used to, you can get a quote in minutes by uploading your current policy.
  • You can bundle home insurance with auto insurance. I currently bundle my auto and home coverage, and I would like to continue. It’s convenient to have all my insurance policies in one app, and it earns me discounts.
  • I would legitimately save money. While I haven’t pulled the trigger yet, Gabi could deliver real savings over the course of a year from one of several different insurance companies. More than $600 for me; Gabi truly means it when they promise to find the best insurance company for your needs.

What We Don’t Like About Gabi Insurance

I may be a new Gabi fanboy, but that doesn’t mean I’m onboard with the entire experience. Here’s where I found the car insurance comparison platform fell short:

  • There isn’t an option to describe the policy you want. Gabi pushes you into a scenario where you have to hand over your current insurance account login information or uploading a copy of your policy. If you’re strict about who has access to your data, this could be problematic, as it’s the only way to get quotes to compare on the site.
  • It can sometimes take days. Though I did not provide my login information, some customers have complained that it could take up to two days (depending on the current insurance provider) for Gabi to get into the account and grab the relevant information. That takes the speed out of the process that is supposed to be a hallmark of Gabi.
  • The policies I was provided weren’t perfect matches for my current policy. And Gabi wasn’t upfront about this. I had to do some digging to realize that, by opting for the No. 1 policy choice, some of my coverages would be reduced.
  • They required my cell phone number. I understand needing my number if I decided to move forward with one of the policies, but for the general comparison purposes, I don’t think customers should have to input their numbers.

What Customers Are Saying About Gabi Insurance

Overall, I had favorable opinions of Gabi, but I wanted to see what other customers were saying about the company.

I started with Better Business Bureau and was actually shocked to see that, despite having a BBB rating of an A-, it has an average 1.77 out of 5 stars based on 22 customer reviews. Ouch.

Reviews on the Better Business Bureau website were largely around problems with the actual Gabi service, but some have said working with customer service is not a pleasant experience either, whether due to agent miscommunications or just generally slow customer service response time.

These poor customer reviews are notably absent on Gabi’s site, where it instead shows off its 4.8 out of 5 stars based on “third-party verified reviews” that are certainly not at all curated to paint a favorable picture.

Gabi does score well in terms of its mobile app. In the App Store, it currently has a 4.1 rating. I could not easily find it on Google Play.

The Bottom Line

So should you try Gabi? If you are actually ready to make the switch to a new car insurance provider and don’t mind a little leg work, absolutely. The Zebra is easier since you don’t have to relinquish your personal information, but I found The Zebra to be dishonest about its spam policy, frustrating to use and not really much of a money-saver. With Gabi, you’ll have to actually take the time to give the platform access to your current policy, but in doing so, big savings and an easy sign-up process could be on the horizon.

Timothy Moore is a market research editing and graphic design manager and a freelance writer and editor covering topics on personal finance, travel, careers, education, pet care and automotive. He has worked in the field since 2012 with publications like The Penny Hoarder, Debt.com, Ladders, WDW Magazine, Glassdoor and The News Wheel. 

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Mass Mortgage Refinancing Plan: Obama’s Ace In the Hole

Last updated on January 25th, 2018

We’ve heard talk of mass refinancing plans for years now, but nothing has quite delivered.

Sure, the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) was recently expanded to allow just about any homeowner to refinance, regardless of negative equity issues.

But since it was announced in late October, I haven’t heard too much about it. Perhaps because it’s voluntary for mortgage lenders and still comes with cumbersome underwriting requirements?

Now there’s word of a “true mass refinance program,” one that allows pretty much anyone to refinance to today’s super low mortgage rates with few, if any restrictions.

A blog post written by James Pethokoukis that appeared on the American Enterprise Institute website yesterday is grabbing some serious headlines at the moment regarding the supposed plan.

In short, it suggests that Obama is looking to replace the current FHFA director with one of his own, which will allow the President to implement such a program. Just in time for election season too (not that I want to get political about this).

And because the FHFA oversees both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, anyone with a mortgage guaranteed by the pair, which is most homeowners, will be able to participate.

How the Mass Mortgage Refinancing Plan Would Work

Apparently it would be modeled after a plan originally thought up by Columbia University economists Glenn Hubbard and Christopher Mayer.

Every homeowner with a Fannie/Freddie backed mortgage would be eligible to refinance their existing first mortgage to a fixed rate of 4% or less.

The only requirement would be that the homeowner is current on their mortgage, or that they become so for a minimum of three months.

Even those with FHA loans and VA loans would be eligible, though interest rates would be higher.

No other qualification criteria would be used – no appraisal requirement, no income verification, no asset documents, LTV limits, etc.

Homeowners would get the option of refinancing into a 30-year fixed or a 15-year fixed.

But only first mortgages can be refinanced, so any second mortgages would need to be resubordinated.

Why It Works

Fannie and Freddie would get higher guarantee fees for implementing the plan, and loan servicers would receive the right to originate/service the mortgages without being responsible for “reps and warranties” violations of past servicers.

Banks and mortgage lenders would be able to refinance the mortgages quickly and cheaply thanks to the lack of underwriting requirements.

Private mortgage insurers could continue to insure the mortgages, and with lower monthly payments the mortgages would be deemed safer.

Roughly 25 million homeowners would benefit from the program in the form of lower monthly mortgage payments, with estimated annual savings of $2,800 per homeowner, or $70 billion in aggregate reduced housing costs.

These lower mortgage payments would also serve to stabilize the housing market and reduce the risk of future defaults.

It could also motivate homeowners on the brink to stay current in order to participate, unlike many loan modification programs that only serve those who fall behind on payments.

This could effectively push home prices higher, easing home equity concerns for those “on the fence” about staying or going.

Additionally, taxpayers would stand to benefit because Fannie and Freddie would reduce their losses and lower mortgage payments would mean reduced mortgage interest deductions.

The only “loser” would be mortgage bondholders, which the economists argue have already benefited tremendously from government actions taken during the mortgage crisis.

Additionally, thanks to current roadblocks, the relatively slow rate of refinancing allowed these bondholders to benefit more than they would have historically.

So there you have it. A possible mass refinance program with very few constraints. Even ineligible borrowers would “benefit” indirectly if the housing market improved as a result.

Not that I’m sold on it.  There are still a ton of question marks, namely those who can’t afford even a reduced housing payment, those already in foreclosure, the excess housing inventory, the impact of future mortgage rates, etc, etc.

Regardless, it’s clear housing policy will play a major role in the upcoming election.

(photo: KE Design)

About the Author: Colin Robertson

Before creating this blog, Colin worked as an account executive for a wholesale mortgage lender in Los Angeles. He has been writing passionately about mortgages for 15 years.

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com