Bring the Outdoors In

smallspaceIf you need to freshen up your living area and want something that never goes out of style, bringing the outside in is always a good idea—nothing brings more life to a space than the addition of a houseplant. Whether it’s herbs in the kitchen, a small tree in the living room, or succulents in the bathroom, plants are always a designer’s favorite. Try some of these tips to add some nature into your indoor space!

Find your ideal area. Walk through your living space, and look at all of the areas where a plant could work. You want to place your plants in an area where it will be most visible. A beautiful plant in your home’s entryway, for instance, sets the mood from the moment you walk in.

Vary the sizes. Mix up the plants that appear throughout your home for variety. Try incorporating different types and sizes for what is needed throughout your living area. For example, a tall tree can add height to a living room with a low couch, and a short plant on the kitchen table draws the eye to the center of the room.

Try a vertical garden. You can still enjoy the benefits of having plants even if you have limited floor area. A vertical garden on a wall or a hanging plant in an unused corner of a room make great use of space.

Use a living centerpiece. Most everyone would love to have fresh-cut flowers on their kitchen table year-round, but it can become expensive. With a planter, you can have real flowers on your table at all times, for a fraction of the cost. If you want to mix it up, have two or three planters that you rotate to different locations around the house.

Think of functionality. Plants can be more than decorative. Bring your favorite herbs into the kitchen, and they can provide a tasty complement to your meals, as well as greenery to your kitchen window ledge. Because of its many health benefits, aloe is another great plant to have in any home.

Adding plants to your home’s decor will create a more vibrant, living space and can even add a breath of fresh air (literally) by improving the quality of your indoor air. So take an interior design tip from Mother Nature, and bring a touch of the outdoors inside your home!

8 Easy Ways to Eliminate Pet Odors from Your Home

freshhomeIf you’re one of those families that has multiple pets, you know it can be hard to keep your home clean and smelling fresh. Here are some tips on how to keep your home from smelling like a pet store!


Bathe and groom your pets regularly.
This will keep excess dirt, oils, dander, and any odors that may be on your pets’ coats from being carried throughout your house. Brushing and grooming can be done more often, since it is just as important. Whenever possible, brush your pets outside to prevent loose hair from finding its way onto and into furniture and carpeting.


Get rid of the hair on your furnishings.
Use a vacuum cleaner with a pet attachment or a lint roller to do away with loose hair at least once a week. If the lint roller or vacuum attachment isn’t working, try using a rubber glove (assuming that a little dampness is all right for your furniture, of course). Put in on your hand, moisten it a bit, and gently glide it over the surface.


Vacuum the floors.
You should try to vacuum your floors once or twice a week, depending on the number of pets you have in your home. This will help lessen the amount of hair and cat litter on the floor that leaves behind those lingering pet smells. You can also use a squeegee to pull up the stray hairs in your carpet that your vacuum can’t get to.


Check your air filters.
Pet hair can build up and clog your air filters. Be sure to change your air-conditioning or furnace filters at least every three to six months.


Be sure to always use disinfectants.
Many odors are caused by bacteria. Try using high-quality sanitizing cleaners that kill more than 99 percent of germs for those lingering odors and surface bacteria. Be sure to use products that are safe for curious tongues and noses!


Eliminate those urine odors right away.
If your pet has an accident inside, clean the area right away using an enzymatic cleaner. These are designed especially for eliminating pet odors and destroying any pheromones and molecules left behind.


Don’t forget to wash their bedding.
If your pet has a bed with a removable cover, be sure to wash that, as well as other pet bedding, at least twice a month.


Keep up with the litter box.
You should scoop the cat litter at least once a day. Keep the litter fresh with baking soda, as this can be used to absorb the smell. Try using a plug-in air freshener in the room where you keep the litter box.

 

How to Be a Mindful Homeowner

auditingenergyWhether you have recently relocated, or you have called your house a home for years—all stages of home ownership can benefit from tips and reminders on how to show homes and communities a little bit of love.

Use this checklist to make sure you’re keeping up with all home and community matters, from maintenance tips and money savers to being good to the environment and your neighbors.

Energy Savers
• Invest in a drying rack and a clothesline so you can skip the dryer year-round.
• Lower the temperature on your hot water heater to 120ºF, and toss a hot water heater blanket over top of it for extra insulation.
• Replace incandescent light bulbs with CFL and LED light bulbs for a 75 percent and 85 percent energy savings, respectively.
• Check the amount of insulation in your home, and install more where needed. Let the home’s design and the climate you live in be your guides for the proper amount.
• Plant mature trees on the east- and west-facing sides of your home to keep it cool in the summer and to block the cold wind in the winter.

Home Improvers
• When making home improvements, be sure to check for national and state tax benefits.
• Improve indoor air quality by maintaining your air filtration systems and decorating your home with houseplants.
• Make sure all home electronics have proper surge protection, and consider a smart power strip, which will cut the power to auxiliary electronics when not in use, for electronics such as your TV.
• Clean indoor and outdoor vents of dust and obstructions on a semi-annual basis.
• Regularly check carbon monoxide and smoke detectors to see if they are in working order, and your fire extinguisher to see if it is fully charged and free of leakage, corrosion, damage, and defects.

Community Matters
• Make sure that you know and review your community and homeowner association (HOA) rules often. Rules are typically more applicable during the change in seasons.
• Set boundaries with your children and pets to make sure they have good manners. Dog owners should be especially considerate of noise levels and designated bathroom spots.
• Develop relationships with your neighbors, whether they are young, old, community locals, or new residents.
• Be good to your neighbors by reporting suspicious activity, lending a hand with weather-related problems, or offering to help with a tedious home maintenance task.
• Take pride in your community by helping to maintain the whole neighborhood, not just your own yard.

New to the neighborhood?  Download this contact sheet to organize important phone numbers for easy access.

 

Finances – SMART Goals

SMARTWhat is a financial goal and how many of us actually sit down to create one for ourselves? While you take this time to think of ways to organize and clean out your home, mind and body, also take a minute to reflect on how you would like your finances to work for you. When creating a financial goal and thinking of what you want your financial future to look like, a good start is to understand the SMART goal technique.

SMART goals are goals that embody five distinct traits: 

Specific: Your financial goals should be as specific as possible in order to successfully achieve exactly what you want. Always include as much detail as possible. What am I striving for? How will I achieve it? Who does it involve? Why is it important to me? If getting out of debt is important to you, think about what debt you want to tackle. Is it credit card debt or student loans? Pick one and focus on that for your goal.

Measurable: For a goal to be effective, it must be measurable. Define how much you will achieve by accomplishing this goal. A goal to “make a lot of money” is not helpful because you can’t measure “a lot.” Let’s look at getting out of credit card debt. What does that mean to you and what does it look like? Saying “I want to reduce my credit card debt by $3,000” is a start to being measurable. How will you accomplish paying down that debt? Do you just “put a little extra in every month when I have that money?” Unfortunately, that may not work very well. You need to be specific and you need to be able to measure it. Figure out exactly how much extra you can pay every month towards your debt. Now you have a concrete figure. You know you need this amount every month. You can now work on ways to make sure you this much to pay off your debt. This also breaks down your goal of paying your credit card debt into smaller goals that you can attain on a measurable frame. Now, you aren’t focused on paying off all your credit card debt, which can feel overwhelming. You are viewing it as paying off a specific, measurable amount each month.

Attainable: A big mistake we often make with goals, and one of the main reasons why we may fail to meet goals, is because we shoot for the moon with a goal we can’t reasonable achieve. As you are creating your financial goal, ask yourself, “can I actually do this/is it possible?” If you have made your goal specific and measurable, it should help in determining if your goal is attainable. It’s also okay if your goal may seem slightly out of reach. That’s the great thing with goals. We can always adjust them if we need. The point is that you are working toward something. Making a goal too easy to achieve means you aren’t growing and changing something about yourself. Sometimes, we have to stretch and struggle to reach that goal. It can help you to be more of who you want be rather than who you have been. If your goal is to pay down credit card debt, challenge yourself to rework your budget to be able to put that money toward your goal.

Realistic: Setting realistic goals involves the methods we intend to use to achieve our goals. An example of a realistic goal might be, “I want to pay off my credit card debt of $3,000 by paying $300 a month for the next ten months.” Is the $300 something you can work into your budget for putting toward that goal? A realistic goal must be in the realm of possibility for you.

Time-Bound: This last element of SMART financial goals is really important. Effective goals are time-bound or timely. What does that mean? It means your goal will have a starting point, an end point and measurable time or milestones in between. Making your goal time-bound provides a framework for you to work within.

  • Time makes your goal more SPECIFIC: “I’ll eliminate my credit card debt in ten months.”
  • Time makes your goal more MEASURABLE: “I’ll put X dollars away every Sunday and then pay N dollars on the 15th of the month toward my credit card bill.”
  • Time makes your goal ATTAINABLE: “I can’t pay $3,000 in 2 months toward my credit card debt, but I can afford $300 a month to put toward it.”
  • Time makes your goal REALISTIC: “Is the time needed to attain this goal really the best use of time for me?”

To discuss more mortgage related topics, please click here.

 

Connecting with People

Connecting GroupFor us to accomplish anything worthwhile, we cannot do it alone. We need others to help us along the way.

It was a pleasure for me to share company with Anthony Petruzzi, author of Connecting with People, Life Lessons from a PEZ Dispenser.

Anthony and I met about 10 years ago at a Multi-Chamber event at College of DuPage. He was passing out flyers for a networking event and literally bumped right into me. He said; “Hey, I need to meet you!” I said; “Hey, I need to meet you too!” He gave me his flyer. Connectings with People

I went to his networking event and it proved to be very worthwhile. I was able to “connect” with people from all walks of life. I was able to build friendships and business relationships, many of which are still intact today. Cindy and Anthony

People will tell you all kinds of things. Don’t listen unless they are telling you how to succeed.

Anthony has written this book, which I highly recommend reading. If people are at the center of every aspect of your life, wouldn’t it make sense to learn how to better communicate with all of them to build stronger relationships?

Would you like to connect with Anthony? Click here for more information.

Choose the Best Paint for All Your Rooms

paintsheenWhen selecting paint for your home, color is likely your first consideration, but the sheen of a paint is just as important. In fact, it’s arguably more important because it affects the look and function of your paint. This handy guide will help you choose the best sheen for every room in your house.

But first, what is sheen, anyway?

A paint’s sheen is the amount of light it reflects, which can dramatically change how a color looks in your home. It is determined by the amount of additives in proportion to dye within a paint. The higher the sheen, the more durable the paint will be. But it will require more coats.

Keep that in mind when buying paint, so you can select the best choice for the room you will be painting.

Sheen Options and Characteristics

FLAT/MATTE

This is paint that contains no sheen. The biggest benefit to a flat finish is the paint coverage: it typically requires only one or two coats, which helps speed the job along. It can also make imperfections in the surface less noticeable. However, it is not nearly as durable as other paints and is difficult to clean.

Best for: low-traffic areas, like ceilings and adult bedrooms

SATIN AND EGGSHELL

While still on the low end of the sheen scale, these finishes have a little bit of a sheen to them. They reflect a little bit more light than flat/matte paints and are more durable.

Best for: high-traffic areas, small spaces, living rooms, dining rooms, and children’s bedrooms

SEMIGLOSS/GLOSS

The more glossy a paint is, the more resistant it will be to dirt and scuff marks. It’s also easier to clean than any other sheen but high gloss. Its ability to repel moisture also makes it great for high-humidity areas. The trade-off is that any bumps or dents in the surface will be more noticeable.

Best for: kitchens, bathrooms, trim, windows, and doors.

HIGH GLOSS

Incredibly durable, stain resistant, and easy to clean, high gloss paint can stand up to the messiest conditions. The downside? It requires several coats and will highlight flaws. And if the surface is too smooth, it will take on a plastic appearance.

Best for: kitchens, doors, and window trims

When selecting any paint, it’s a good idea to apply a small amount to part of the area so you can see how it will look in your home. The last thing you want to do is have to repaint after all your hard work.

Red Door Design Spaces really has the eye for color, as well as, many other interior decorating experiences. Are you looking for a few more recommendations? Feel free to Click here for more information

Vegetables You Can Buy Once and Regrow Forever!

Regrowing celery from left overs

Ever wonder how you could make your favorite vegetables last longer? You can, just by saving your vegetable leftovers and regrowing them in water. It’s a simple, cost-saving way to get the most of your veggies, keep your fridge replenished, and reduce your grocery bill!

For many vegetables, you only need to place the scraps into a bowl of water and they’ll start growing on their own. Of course, you should make sure that the container you use is appropriate for the size of the vegetable, and that you check the vegetable every day to see if it still has enough water. We’ve listed some examples of commonly eaten vegetables below, but keep in mind that this method of regrowing can work for other vegetables as well, such as cabbage, fennel and leeks.


Lettuce
Lettuce is one of those staples that tends to get used in all kinds of meals year-round, so chances are you’re buying a head of lettuce once a week or so. Cut back on your lettuce purchases by first cutting off the bottom of the lettuce head you already have at home. Then put the section in a small bowl with shallow water, about a half-inch. Then just leave it on a well-lit window sill, and replace the water every few days. Halfway through the first week, check out the center to see if anything’s growing. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you see! After about 2 weeks, you should have a new half-head of lettuce, so when you have enough green leaves sprouting up, eat away!


Celery
Celery is one of the easiest foods to grow from leftover scraps. Just cut off the bottom 2 inches of the stalk, and place the stalk in a small bowl of water. Much like with the lettuce, make sure to keep the bowl in direct sunlight for as long as possible each day. After about 3-4 days, you should notice regrowth happening in the center of the stalk. Be patient while the celery growth process happens in that center, and you’ll be rewarded.


Green Onion
If you tend to top your food with green onions a lot, this is a pretty simple way to ensure you always have some around. Keep the white part of the onion with any roots that are still intact. Drop the roots in a narrow drinking glass with enough water to cover them, and move the onion around so the roots are pointing down. Put that on a window sill that gets some sunlight. Make sure you change the water out once every couple of days so the roots don’t get greasy. Within about a week, you’ll have a brand-new set of green onions!


Carrot Greens
People love their carrots, but they don’t often make use of the entire vegetable, discarding the carrot tops. Stop the waste and grow your own greens for a salad! When you prepare your carrots for consumption, leave about an inch of carrot with the carrot tops. Then put the cut-off ends in a shallow bowl of water, leave them where they can get sun, and watch those greens grow! Within a few days, you’ll see sprouts coming out of the carrot tops.


It’s amazing what you can do with a few vegetable leftovers, a little loving care and water. And just think of how much fun you’ll having bringing your vegetables to life!

Sell Your Home Faster with These Staging Tips

Interior of modern living room

Home staging can help you sell your house faster and for top dollar. But creating an environment with broad appeal can be challenging when you’re still living in the space. If you’re having difficulties setting the stage, try implementing these tips!

If you have children . . .

Keeping your house clutter-free can be a challenge with kids in the house. Be sure to put most of the toys in storage (especially large items, like play kitchens), and keep the rest out of sight when showing your home. You’ll also want to clear kids’ drawings and artwork from refrigerators and walls.

Since not all home buyers have children of their own, it’s a good idea to make over children’s spaces. Convert the playroom into a simple space that buyers can picture their own belongings in. And make children’s bedrooms more universally appealing by repainting the walls to a neutral color and removing kid-themed decor.

To make this transition easier for your kids, have them choose their favorite toys, books, and stuffed animals to keep in an easily accessible box or storage area.

If you have pets . . .

As cute, cuddly, and lovable as your pets may be, their presence should be minimized when selling your home. Remove photos of pets from the refrigerator, walls, and tabletops. Seal up doggie doors. Keep pet toys, food, and water bowls out of sight. And pack up cages, carriers, and cat trees.

Be vigilant about eradicating hair and odors. They’re a big turnoff to potential buyers, and dander is a common allergen. Vacuum daily, or even twice a day if your pet sheds a lot. Use an enzyme cleaner to remove urine stains and odor. It may be a good idea to have your carpets professionally cleaned as well.

If possible, get the pets out of the house—at least during showings. Send them to a kennel or pet sitter, or ask a friend or relative to take them for a short time.

If you have small spaces . . .

You can’t easily add square footage to a home, but you do have ways of making your space appear bigger.

One strategy is to make use of light, color, and patterns. Brighter rooms look bigger and more inviting, so maximize the light as much as possible. Place mirrors strategically to reflect images and light. Incorporating lighter colors on the walls and furniture will also help open up the room.

Stripes draw the eyes in the direction they point. So you can use a striped rug to make the room seem longer, or vertical stripes on the walls to accentuate height.

Decluttering is important when staging any home, but it is paramount when spacing is at a premium. Place an emphasis on storing anything you don’t immediately need. And don’t limit it to open areas. Remove half the items from your closets to give the appearance of more storage space.

Scale furniture to fit the size of the room, and keep walking pathways open. If you can, put some furniture in storage, or rent smaller furniture while your home is on the market.

In bathrooms, open shower curtains so buyers can see all the way to the back of the tub.

Need a plan for staging your home, please click here.

4 Areas to Boost Spring Market Curb Appeal

paint brushMany focus solely on the inside of their homes and forget about curb appeal – you know, the way a home looks from the curb? While it may be challenging for sellers to understand the idea of investing in a home they are leaving, the goal is to sell and get top dollar.

While your client may not be prepared to invest in some of these items, at the very least, be sure the landscaping has been tended to and the siding is clean and intact.

So let’s take a look at the 4 places money can best be spent outside:

Landscaping and Lighting

gardenSpice up the exterior of the home with a freshly manicured lawn, new shrubbery, colorful flowers and top it off with lighting. New shrubs and a crisp lawn won’t show well in the dark so install some outdoor lighting and call attention to the great new place that just happens to be ready to buy.

Don’t forget to shine a light on the house numbers – buyers can’t take note of the address if it can’t been seen.

Siding and Paint

Make sure the siding or paint is clean and not cracking or peeling. At the very least you want the outside of the home to be clean. If your clients aren’t in a position to replace or repaint the exterior of the home you can always use a power washer to spruce up siding or a hose to clean up exterior paint.

New Doors and Windows

If a home is dated, new windows and doors can give the home a cleaner, newer look – in the end more appealing to your potential buyers. If the sellers are on a budget then you might want to consider a new coat of paint; a fresh new look will breathe life back into weathered windows and doors.

Your Roof

A damaged roof is cause for concern and is best addressed immediately. Replacing a roof will be something that will appeal to buyers as it’s a big ticket item they would rather not deal with in just a few short years. Also, with a new roof comes a new asking price – that’s right this will increase the value of the home.

At the end of the day you’ll want potential buyers to want to walk into the home and the only way to do this is to draw them in with an attractive exterior.

The Home Refinancing Plan Banks Don’t Want You Knowing

house, money, calculatorThere has never been a better time to refinance your home. That’s because of a little-known government program called the Home Affordable Refinance Plan® (HARP). This allows Americans to refinance their homes at shockingly low rates, and reduce their payments by an average of $3,300 a year.
But here’s the catch – like most government programs, this is likely temporary. Currently the program is set to expire in 2016. But the good news is, once you’re in, you’re in.

It’s like a true middle-class stimulus package

This is unknown to many, but the Home Affordable Program is for the middle class. If your mortgage is $625,500 or less (unless you live in a high-cost area then the loan limits may be higher), you most likely qualify. Basically, the Government wants banks to cut your rates, which puts more money in your pocket (which is good for the economy). However, the banks aren’t too happy about this – here’s why:

  1. You can shop several lenders, not just your current mortgage holder
  2. Your home’s Loan-to-value (LTV) can be 80% to 125%

You think banks like the above? Rest assured, they do not. They’d rather keep you at the higher rate you financed at years ago. That’s why the pressure is on time-wise. The Middle Class seems to miss out on everything (did you ride the last stock bubble? Probably not). Thus, it’s almost a no-brainer to jump on this now.

You can greatly benefit:

  • The average monthly savings for most eligible Americans is $275. Can you use an extra $275 a month?
  • Many homeowners not only save every month, but depending on their current rates, they can also shorten their term.
Almost a million homeowners could still save money, but sadly, most of them think the HARP program is too good to be true. Remember, HARP is a free government program and there’s absolutely NO COST to see if you are eligible.

This is why it’s a no-brainer – you will likely lower your payment, possibly shorten your term, AND can also get cash. This is how powerful that little word called “interest” is. The middle class never sees “breaks” like this. So this is your chance to get “in”.

This often overlooked method to lower your payment (and continue to make the higher payment by directing the excess to the principal) is a great way for you to pay off your mortgage in a shorter period of time, all the while saving more money in interest over the life of the loan.

To find these rates, please click here.

Celebrate the Day!

St PatricksEvery year on March 17, the Irish and the Irish-at-heart across the globe observe St. Patrick’s Day. What began as a religious feast day for the patron saint of Ireland has become an international festival celebrating Irish culture with parades, dancing, special foods and a whole lot of green.

  • Corned beef and cabbage is a traditional St. Patrick’s Day dish. In 2009, roughly 26.1 billion pounds of beef and 2.3 billion pounds of cabbage were produced in the United States.
  • Irish soda bread gets its name and distinctive character from the use of baking soda rather than yeast as a leavening agent.
  • Lime green chrysanthemums are often requested for St. Patrick’s Day parades and celebrations.
  • The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in the United States on March 17, 1762, when Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City.
  • More than 100 St. Patrick’s Day parades are held across the United States. New York City and Boston are home to the largest celebrations.
  • At the annual New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade, participants march up 5th Avenue from 44th Street to 86th Street. Each year, between 150,000 and 250,000 marchers take part in the parade, which does not allow automobiles or floats.
  • There are seven places in the United States named after the shamrock, the floral emblem of Ireland including Mount Gay-Shamrock, WV; Shamrock, TX; Shamrock Lakes, IN; and Shamrock, OK.
  • Sixteen U.S. places share the name of Ireland’s capital, Dublin. With 44,541 residents, Dublin, CA, is the largest of the nice, followed by Dublin, OH, with 39,310.
  • Other towns with the luck of the Irish include Emerald Isle, North Carolina and Irishtown, Illinois.
  • There are 34.7 million U.S. residents with Irish ancestry. This number is more than seven times the population of Ireland itself.
  • Irish is the nation’s second most frequently reported ancestry, ranking behind German.
  • Across the country, 11 percent of residents lay claim to Irish ancestry. That number more than doubles to 23 percent in the state of Massachusetts.
  • Irish is the most common ancestry in 54 U.S. counties, of which 44 are in the Northeast. Middlesex County in Massachusetts tops the list with 348,978 Irish Americans, followed by Norfolk County, MA, which has 203,285.
  • Irish ranks among the top five ancestries in every state except Hawaii and New Mexico. It is the leading ancestry group in Delaware, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
  • There are approximately 144,588 current U.S. residents who were born in Ireland.

FREE Report! What is your Home Worth?

FREE COMPARATIVE MARKET ANALYSIS

What is a ‘Comparative Market Analysis’?

CMAComparative market analysis is an examination of the prices at which similar properties in the same area recently sold. Real estate agents perform a comparative market analysis for their clients to help them determine a price to list when selling a home or a price to offer when buying a home. Since no two properties are identical, agents make adjustments for the differences between the sold properties and the one that is about to be purchased or listed to determine a fair offer or sale price. Essentially, a comparative market analysis is a less-sophisticated version of a formal, professional appraisal.

What do you think your home is worth? Please feel free to contact me for your FREE COMPARATIVE MARKET ANALYSIS. Real Estate Agents use this market analysis as an industry standard.

Your FREE CMA will take 1-2 business days to complete. Are you ready to get started?

Use the Contact Us form to the right and type FREE CMA in the Message Box. We will reach out to you shortly.

You personally can make America stronger!

voteI am not here to tell you who to vote for. It is your responsibility to research the issues and make an informed decision about who best represents your concerns.

Your vote is your voice as an American citizen. It’s your opportunity to be heard, to hold elected officials accountable for their decisions and to have a say in important issues that affect your community. On Election Day, every vote matters.

Citizens of many countries complain about the world around them, and many don’t have the option to change their world. However, you do. The youth of America have the power to make decisions that can affect the country. If you don’t like the way America is run, and yet you don’t vote in elections or make your opinions heard, then you, not the government is at fault.

Be part of the solution! “We the People” need representation in Washington, take the money out of politics and let the people have their voice. Your vote is vitally important. Spread the word!

You can’t make this stuff up!

Open HouseCall it scoping out the competition or call it being nosy, but I am always interested in hearing about people’s experiences with other realtors.

Real Estate clients were finishing up a tour with an agent in Laguna Beach, CA, who frankly didn’t show them anything that matched their needs. Maybe in an attempt to redeem himself, he said he had driven by an open house earlier that would be a good fit for them.

So, they arrive and the open house is jam packed. The couple swoon over the house’s architecture, layout and upgrades. They had never seen an open house with such decadent catering and elegantly dressed buyers.  They give their agent thumbs up, “Good job! This might be the one!” As they are piling caviar onto their plates and sipping champagne, a woman who presumably was the listing agent, all of a sudden approaches them. They gush “This is a lovely home. Please tell the seller we are very impressed,”  to which she responds “Um, who are you?”

“We’re here for the open house,” explained the couple .  “This is indeed an open house…. for my friends and family. I am the new owner.” Embarrassed beyond belief, they put down their plates & slithered out.

10 Trendy Kitchen and Bathroom Upgrades – HGTV

Kitchen1. Free Style

Because we’re spending more and more time in our kitchens and baths, there is a move away from the all-or-nothing “fitted” look of continuous counters. Look for more freestanding pieces of furniture or features with furniturelike qualities, such as a cabriole leg holding up a kitchen counter. These details won’t be fussy but will further the notion that the kitchen and bath aren’t just for utilitarian cooking and bathing, but are for living.

2. Artistic Upgrades

In the ongoing effort to customize our kitchens, almost anything goes. Now range hoods are works of art, literally. Already beautiful as well as functional, hoods can now be customized with panels you choose. Cupboard doors can be replaced with accent doors. Want a new backsplash? It’s as simple as applying DIY stainless tiles or installing a ready-to-hang piece of tile art. You can go from dull to dramatic, tired to trendy, in just a few minutes.

3. Asian Fusion

With international style so popular at home, it’s no wonder that the Asian influence is still going strong in the kitchen, where Asian cooking is all the rage, and in the bathroom, where there is nothing like Zen comforts to help us unwind. Look for drawer pulls reminiscent of bamboo, built-in teriyaki grills and Japanese-style sliding pantry doors in the kitchen. In the bath, calming touches such as a deep soaking tub, a waterfall in the shower and vessel sinks with sleek wall-mounted hardware say Zen with a capital “Z.”

4. Going Green

Eco-friendly products aren’t going to go out of style anytime soon. And now there are more ways that you can go green in the bathroom and kitchen, too, from energy-efficient dishwashers (that use less water than when you wash by hand), to environmentally sound flooring options made of reclaimed wood and tiles. Ann Sacks even makes a rugged tile from river rocks.

5. Oh-So-Organic

Forget straight lines and right angles. From egg-shaped bathtubs and round bathroom bowls to curvy kitchen and vanity counters, organic shapes are in. Even toilets, like Kohler’s oval offering called The Purist, which features no exposed plumbing, seems rooted to the ground as if it grew there. Not only are the shapes pleasing, they also encourage a more natural circular traffic flow. Imagine never bumping into a sharp corner again.

6. Drawer Designs

Move over refrigerator drawers and dishwasher drawers, and say hello to the microwave drawer. Yes, that handy appliance, popcorn button and all, now comes in a drawer. What’s the big deal with drawers in the kitchen? As the kitchen has become the hub of the home, there’s a move to break up the big expanses of appliances and cut the clutter.

7. High Tech

Advances in technology continue to offer us out-of-this-world options, from a TV embedded in a bathroom mirror to an oven that can be programmed to keep your food cold until it’s cooking time. You can even change the cooking directions from your office computer. Don’t have enough freezer space? High-tech progress can help you turn a fridge drawer into a freezer in no time. It can also raise the toilet seat when it sees you coming and clean the shower when you’re not around.

8. Built-Ins

Built-ins are convenient and sleek, two must-haves in today’s kitchens. Think steamers and strainers, high-end coffeemakers, professional ice machines and wine coolers, knife racks, spice holders, ring holders, fondue pots, ice beds for shrimp and much, much more.

9. Glass Acts

Glass is everywhere in today’s kitchens and baths, from recycled and Depression-era glass tiles to opaque glass on cooktops, refrigerators and cabinet doors. Glass mosaic tiles, Venetian glass light fixtures, translucent glass sink: They all add light and drama.

10. Bathroom as Refuge

Yes, we are doing more in our bathrooms these days than just brushing our teeth. Watch for showers that offer aromatherapy, hydrotherapy and color therapy, and envision refrigerated vanity drawers for storing those refreshing tub-side beverages. With heated towel racks, suede or leather drawer pulls and stereo surround sound, the bathroom is truly a sanctuary for the senses.

 

8 Bad ‘Home Improvement’ Habits

habitsHome owners can overdo it when it comes to the upkeep of their home. This Old House recently spotlighted several ways that home owners’ enthusiasm for home ownership may actually harm the house.

1. Having light bulbs that are too bright. You want a well-lit home, but exceeding a lamp or light fixture’s recommended wattage can be dangerous, particularly with incandescents or halogen lights, says John Drengenberg, consumer safety director for Underwriters Laboratories. “Using a bulb with too-high wattage will cause the fixture and its wiring to overheat,” he notes, which could then allow the heat to travel to the wall or erode the insulation on the wires and lead to a house fire. Check the fixtures label to make sure you use the correct wattage.

2. Planting trees near driveways or walkways. A line of trees to the house may up its curb appeal but adding young trees near driveways or walkways could be putting your slab at risk. As these trees grow taller, their roots will go outward, potentially pushing up the paving and causing it to buckle or crack. This Old House recommends planting small trees that will remain under 20 feet at maturity and that are at least 10 feet from paved areas. For larger trees, leave at least a 20-foot radius.

3. Overscrubbing a sink. Don’t overdo it with abrasive cleaners; they can scratch the sink. “Cleaners with a grit or grain to them will wear away at the finish and dull it,” Kohler‘s Mike Marbuch told This Old House. “That will make the sink more prone to gunk sticking to it—actually making it look dirtier.” Try a liquid cleanser like vinegar or lemon juice on the sink and avoid scrubbing it every day.

4. Overdoing it with can lights. Excessive recessed lighting in a home can cause a lot of air leaks. Recessed lighting is known as causing heat-sucking air leaks, especially when the fixtures are unsealed in vaulted ceilings. Airtight recessed lighting fixtures are available that are rated for insulation contact (IC). Also, use as few recessed lights as you can, especially when it comes to adding them to cathedral ceilings or in rooms directly below unconditioned attics.

5. Spreading too much mulch outside. “Over-mulching will suffocate plants, confuse their root systems, and prevent water from percolating into the soil,” notes the article at This Old House. “If you’ve mulched so much that tree trunks and flowers’ and shrubs’ lower branches are covered by or dragging in it, you’ve gone overboard.” Have mulch no thicker than 3 inches.

6. Using glass cleaner on mirrors. Watch out for store-bought sprays that promise to make your glass sparkle. “A drop of liquid running around the mirror’s edge can cause the reflective backing to lift or craze,” This Old House notes. The black edge can occur from using ammonia- or vinegar-based cleaners. This Old House recommends using warm water and a soft, lint-free cloth to clean mirrors. Or if you do use the sprays, spray it onto a dry cloth first and not directly onto the glass.

7. Repainting too much. “Excessive paint is detrimental – especially on an older house, which may have layers of thicker oil-based paint, which becomes brittle with age,” notes This Old House. To avoid thick, cracked, or peeling paint, be sure to carefully power-wash prior to painting, sand areas that need it, and then use 100 percent acrylic-resin exterior paint.

8. Fertilizing too much. Fertilizing too often can spur more weeds to grow. Also, the Environmental Protection Agency warns over-fertilizing can cause “nutrient pollution,” which is when nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from lawn fertilizers and then leads to an overgrowth of algae that can even pollute local waterways. Some lawn experts recommend only fertilizing twice a year, late summer and fall only.

Be Better

be betterAs I approached one of those milestone birthday’s, a friend remarked that now I was really old. “Did you know that your life is half over?” she said. “What will you do with the rest of it?”

Wow! That kind of rocked me back on my heels. I really began thinking about that question and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I did not have the answer. So I thought about it. Then I thought about it some more. What did I really want to do with the rest of my life???

For me, it was not about having more money or more toys or more vacations. What did I want? Hmmmm.

Then, almost a year later, it came to me. I simply wanted to be better. Not that things were really that bad before, but in my perspective, I think there is always room for improvement. So I decided that I wanted to be a better wife, better friend, better worker, better neighbor, etc. And so, there it is. I approach each day and try to be better.

As you move through time and space, think about what you want. Do you want to be better?

Homeownership Education by Framework

Fannie MaeBuying a home can be an intimidating process whether you’re searching for the right house or deciding on financing options with your lender. That’s why Fannie Mae has partnered with Framework, a leading provider of homeownership education. Framework offers an interactive online training course to help you understand the homebuying process and prepare for homeownership. Even previous buyers can benefit from the training as a valuable, up-to-date review.

Framework’s course meets the housing counseling standards established by HUD and the National Industry Standards for Homeownership Education and Counseling. It also fulfills the homeownership education requirement for Fannie Mae’s HomeReady mortgage.

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Gest started on the FRAMEWORK Course

What You Need to Know

  • The course has 9 interactive modules that take about 4 hours to finish.
  • You’ll complete the modules online, at your convenience.
  • Framework charges a one-time $75 fee (that covers both you and a co-borrower) for the training—a small investment to help you prepare for possibly the largest purchase of your life.
  • Once you’re done, download and save your Certificate of Completion (you may need to provide it to your loan officer).

What You’ll Learn

  • How much home you can afford
  • How to choose the best loan
  • How to lower your down payment
  • What to include in your offer
  • What happens at closing
  • What pitfalls to avoid before and after closing
  • And more

Minority Home Ownership Rates Are Rising

Minority FamilyMinority home ownership rates are showing signs of improvement for the first time since 2007, and they are likely to see significant growth in the coming decades. Indeed, forecasters predict that more than three-quarters of household growth from 2010 to 2020 will be from minorities. From 2020 to 2030, 88 percent of the growth will be attributed to minorities.

Hispanics are supposed to drive most of that growth. The Hispanic home ownership rate has increased to its highest level since the third quarter of 2012.

Of the 22 million new households formed from 2010 and 2030, nine million are expected to be home owners, and more than half of those new home owners are likely to be Hispanic. Eleven percent will be black and 29 percent will be other races.

Of the 22 million new households formed from 2010 and 2030, nine million are expected to be home owners, and more than half of those new home owners are likely to be Hispanic. Eleven percent will be black and 29 percent will be other races.

Meanwhile, white-only home ownership, which right now trends about 20 to 30 points higher than minorities, ended 2015 lower than its been in years.

Are you looking to purchase a home? I can help.

Millennials Want the ‘Anti-Suburb Suburb’

buildForget what you’ve read about the millennial generation not buying homes in the suburbs. The latest surveys show they are, and not only that, they are leaving a powerful footprint on the feel of suburbia.

Millennials make up one-third of buyers nationwide, and represent the largest segment of all home buyers, according to research from the National Association of REALTORS®.

“Their buying power is huge,” says Jessica Lautz, NAR’s managing director of survey research. “They are definitely a force in the market. They are overtaking the baby boomers.”

They are moving out of city centers, bypassing the small starter properties in the city in favor of larger homes in the suburbs – just like previous generations before them have, notes Tommy Choi with Weinberg Choi Realty.

In the suburbs, millennials are increasingly opting for very traditional homes too – a single-family, detached home with three bedrooms and two baths, Lautz says. They also are often purchasing older properties – which might be less expensive – and then remodeling these properties to match their style.

When they do move out to the suburbs, they are showing a desire for the “anti-suburb suburb,” Alison Bernstein, founder of Suburban Jungle Realty, told MarketPlace.

Bernstein says her clients want to hold onto at least some elements of the urban lifestyle even though they are in suburbia. Builders and cities are taking notice. For example, some communities are repurposing shopping malls and parking lots into green space. They’re creating retail hubs. They are also looking for ways to improve walkability and add more convenient access to public transportation.

Also, cities are adding quality schools within shorter distances of residents.

“A great education … an organic market down the street,” Bernstein notes. “They really do want to bring the best of urban living to the suburbs.”