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Category Archives: Uncategorized

What Owners Want in Kitchen Remodels

Daily Real Estate News | Monday, May 22, 2017

Kitchen revamps tend to be one of the most popular home remodeling projects. About 10.2 million American households tackled a kitchen remodel or replacement work in 2015, according to a recent report from the National Kitchen & Bath Association. Homeowners tend to want new flooring, countertops, cabinets, sinks, and faucets in their kitchen remodels.

Also, “more homeowners are incorporating smart technology using the Amazon Echo or Google Home to connect to their appliances for cost savings, energy efficiency, and convenience,” says Elle H-Millard, who specializes in kitchen and bathroom trends at the NKBA.

The majority of homeowners aren’t spending big bucks in their renovations. Forty-one percent of homeowners’ work in their kitchen remodels was devoted to replacement projects costing less than $1,500. Twenty-two percent of respondents say they had minor remodeling done, between $1,500 to $5,000; 18 percent of homeowners had major remodels completed that cost between $5,000 to $10,000; and 19 percent completely remodeled their kitchens, spending more than $10,000.

Nearly 80 percent of homeowners who underwent a complete kitchen renovation spent on new appliances, according to the NKBA. Refrigerators were the top appliance replaced, followed by range ovens and dishwashers.

As for countertops, homeowners still largely prefer granite, followed by laminate at 23 percent and marble at 19 percent.

Homeowners still say they like wood flooring best too, but they weren’t as likely to splurge on real hardwood flooring for their kitchen renovations, according to the NKBA’s survey. Laminate flooring was the most popular material in the kitchen at 32 percent, with ceramic and stone tiles following closely at 31 percent; both are often designed to mimic wood. Actual wood, meanwhile, was chosen by 18 percent of survey respondents.

“Wood has that timeless feel,” says H-Millard. But “porcelain tile would be much more durable than wood, [and] laminate would be much more cost-effective.”

Sinks were another popular area of kitchen renovations. Stainless steel is the most popular option at 72 percent, but 9 percent of homeowners opt for enameled cast-iron sinks.

Source: “Remodeling Your Kitchen? The Most Popular Appliances, Finishes, and Flooring,” realtor.com® (May 19, 2017)

11 Ways to Create a Welcoming Front Entrance for Under $100

By: Cara Greenberg

Wouldn’t it be nice to approach your home’s entrance with a grin instead of a grimace? Take our tips for beating a clear, safe, and stylish path to your front door.

First impressions count — not just for your friends, relatives, and the UPS guy, but for yourself. Whether it’s on an urban stoop or a Victorian front porch, your front door and the area leading up to it should extend a warm welcome to all comers — and needn’t cost a bundle.

Here’s what you can do to make welcoming happen on the cheap.

#1 Get Rid of Overgrowth

The path to your front door should be at least 3 feet wide so people can walk shoulder-to-shoulder, with an unobstructed view and no stumbling hazards. So get out those loppers and cut back any overhanging branches or encroaching shrubs.

#2 Light the Pathway

Landscape lighting makes it easy to get around at night. Solar-powered LED lights you can just stick in the ground, requiring no wiring, are surprisingly inexpensive. We found 8 packs for under $60 online. 

#3 Paint Your Door

Borrow inspiration from London’s lovely row houses, whose owners assert their individuality by painting their doors in high-gloss colors. The reflective sheen of a royal blue, deep green, crimson, or whatever color you like will ensure your house stands out from the pack.

Related: Pictures of 10 Great Value-Add Exterior Paint Jobs

#4 Add a Door With Glass

A door with lots of glass is a plus for letting light into the front hall — but if you also want privacy and a bit of decor, check out decorative window film. It’s removable and re-positionable, and comes in innumerable styles and motifs. Pricing depends on size and design; many available for under $30.

A way to get the look of stained glass without doing custom work or buying a whole new door: Mount a decorative panel on the inside of the door behind an existing glass insert, $92 for an Arts and Crafts-style panel 20-inches-high by 11-inches-wide.

#5 Replace Door Hardware.

While you’re at it, polish up the handle on the big front door. Or better yet, replace it with a shiny new brass lockset with a secure deadbolt. Available for about $60.

#6 Add a Knocker

Doorbells may be the norm, but a hefty knocker is a classic that will never run out of battery life, and another opportunity to express yourself (whatever your favorite animal or insect is, there’s a door-knocker in its image).

#7 Plant Evergreens

Boxwoods are always tidy-looking, the definition of easy upkeep. A pair on either side of the door is traditional, but a singleton is good, too. About $25 at garden centers. In cold climates, make sure pots are frost-proof (polyethylene urns and boxes mimic terracotta and wood to perfection).

#8 Make Your House Numbers Stand Out

Is your house number clearly visible? That’s of prime importance if you want your guests to arrive and your pizza to be hot. Stick-on vinyl numbers in a variety of fonts make it easy, starting at about $4 per digit.

#9 A Nice Door Mat

A hardworking mat for wiping muddy feet is a must. A thick coir mat can be had at the hardware store for less than $20. Even fancier varieties can be found well under $50.

#10 Porch Lights

Fumbling for keys in the dark isn’t fun. Consider doubling up on porch lights with a pair of lanterns, one on each side of the door, for symmetry and twice the illumination. Many mounted lights are available well under $100.

#11 A New Mailbox

Mailboxes run the gamut from kitschy roadside novelties masquerading as dogs, fish, or what-have-you to sober black lockboxes mounted alongside the front door. Whichever way you go, make sure yours is standing or hanging straight, with a secure closure, and no dings or dents. The mail carrier will thank you.

Related: A Dozen Foyer Ideas Under $100

Lawn Aeration: Give Your Grass a Breath of Fresh Air

By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon

Lawn aeration ensures lush, healthy grass year-round.

Lawn aeration brings oxygen, water, and nutrients directly to grass roots, which helps make your lawn green and lush. It’s a critical part of spring and fall lawn care and gives roots the vital boost they need.

Here’s how:

Lawn Aeration Basics

Lawn aeration pulls 2- to 8-inch soil “plugs” out of the ground, leaving holes that allow water, air, and nutrients to reach grass roots, and lets new seed germinate in a cool, moist environment. Hard clay soils need to be aerated more often than sandy soil. A soil test will tell you what type of soil you have.

John Dillon, who directs lawn care at New York City’s Central Park, says aeration helps lawns by:

  • Allowing oxygen to reach the root zone, which invigorates lawns
  • Relieving compaction by allowing established grass and seed to spread into plug holes
  • Controlling thatch buildup
  • Reducing water runoff

Aeration Tools

You can aerate by hand with an aerating tool ($20), which looks like a pitchfork with two hollow tines. Step on the tool’s bridge and drive the hollow tines into the earth. It’s slow-going, but good for spot aerating small patches of lawn.

You also can buy an aeration attachment ($60) for your garden tiller, but the tool slices the lawn and doesn’t actually remove plugs.

Most lawn aeration is done with a self-propelled machine known as a core aerator. About the size of a large lawn mower, a core aerator has hollow tines or spoons that rotate on a drum, removing soil plugs as you guide it from behind. This tool is available at most garden or rental centers for $15 to $25 per hour. Plan two to four hours to aerate an average quarter-acre suburban lot.

Timing is Everything

Aerate after the first frost has killed weeds, but before the ground has become too hard. It’s a good idea to spread grass seed after you aerate, so make sure you’re still able to water your lawn for two weeks after you aerate, which will help the seed to germinate.

Adria Bordas, a Fairfax County Virginia extension agent, says lawns with a lot of foot traffic should be aerated twice a year — March through April, and mid-August through October.

Related:

  • Season-by-Season Lawn Care Guide
  • How to Bring Back Your Lawn After Winter Damage
  • Do Organic Home Remedies for Lawn Care Work?

11 Ways to Create a Welcoming Front Entrance for Under $100

By: Cara Greenberg

Published: November 5, 2012

Wouldn’t it be nice to approach your home’s entrance with a grin instead of a grimace? Take our tips for beating a clear, safe, and stylish path to your front door.

First impressions count — not just for your friends, relatives, and the UPS guy, but for yourself. Whether it’s on an urban stoop or a Victorian front porch, your front door and the area leading up to it should extend a warm welcome to all comers — and needn’t cost a bundle.

Here’s what you can do to make welcoming happen on the cheap.

1. Clear the Way for Curb Appeal.

The path to your front door should be at least 3 feet wide so people can walk shoulder-to-shoulder, with an unobstructed view and no stumbling hazards. So get out those loppers and cut back any overhanging branches or encroaching shrubs.

2. Light the Route.

Landscape lighting makes it easy to get around at night. Solar-powered LED lights you can just stick in the ground, requiring no wiring, are surprisingly inexpensive. We found 8 packs for under $60 online. 

3. Go Glossy.

Borrow inspiration from London’s lovely row houses, whose owners assert their individuality by painting their doors in high-gloss colors. The reflective sheen of a royal blue, deep green, crimson, or whatever color you like will ensure your house stands out from the pack.

Related: Pictures of 10 Great Value-Add Exterior Paint Jobs

4. Pretty Up the View.

A door with lots of glass is a plus for letting light into the front hall — but if you also want privacy and a bit of decor, check out decorative window film. It’s removable and re-positionable, and comes in innumerable styles and motifs. Pricing depends on size and design; many available for under $30.

A way to get the look of stained glass without doing custom work or buying a whole new door: Mount a decorative panel on the inside of the door behind an existing glass insert, $92 for an Arts and Crafts-style panel 20-inches-high by 11-inches-wide.

5. Replace Door Hardware.

While you’re at it, polish up the handle on the big front door. Or better yet, replace it with a shiny new brass lockset with a secure deadbolt. Available for about $60.

6. Please Knock.

Doorbells may be the norm, but a hefty knocker is a classic that will never run out of battery life, and another opportunity to express yourself (whatever your favorite animal or insect is, there’s a door-knocker in its image).

7. Ever-Greenery.

Boxwoods are always tidy-looking, the definition of easy upkeep. A pair on either side of the door is traditional, but a singleton is good, too. About $25 at garden centers. In cold climates, make sure pots are frost-proof (polyethylene urns and boxes mimic terracotta and wood to perfection).

8. Numbers Game.

Is your house number clearly visible? That’s of prime importance if you want your guests to arrive and your pizza to be hot. Stick-on vinyl numbers in a variety of fonts make it easy, starting at about $4 per digit.

9. Foot Traffic.

A hardworking mat for wiping muddy feet is a must. A thick coir mat can be had at the hardware store for less than $20. Even fancier varieties can be found well under $50.

10. Go for the glow.

Fumbling for keys in the dark isn’t fun. Consider doubling up on porch lights with a pair of lanterns, one on each side of the door, for symmetry and twice the illumination. Many mounted lights are available well under $100.

11. Snail Mail.

Mailboxes run the gamut from kitschy roadside novelties masquerading as dogs, fish, or what-have-you to sober black lockboxes mounted alongside the front door. Whichever way you go, make sure yours is standing or hanging straight, with a secure closure, and no dings or dents. The mail carrier will thank you.

Related: A Dozen Foyer Ideas Under $100

Creating A Patio Scene That Sells

Whether you’re selling an oceanfront property in Miami Beach or a Colorado mountain escape, a home’s outdoor space is often key in the potential homeowner’s willingness to say, “We’ll take it!” With property values on the rise, it’s important to create additional living space by bringing the indoors out.

Read more: Decks vs. Patios: Which Is More Popular?

No matter the size, creating an inviting area for entertainment and daily living doesn’t have to be a massive construction ordeal. Instead, just a few simple additions to the outdoor space can make all the difference. Let’s take a look at ways to create a refreshing outdoor scene that sells, complete with fresh patio furniture and accessories perfectly matched to the home’s architecture and surrounding scenery.

Work with What You’ve Got

While outdoor spaces are key to selling a property, there’s no need to do a complete overhaul. Instead, work with what you’ve got and take advantage of smart design to maximize the space. Overgrown lawns can look like new with some pruning, and weathered concrete patios can be given a new life with simple patio resurfacings or overlays. A good power wash can take years off of an outdoor space, while a slick coat of paint on some well-loved fences and trims can make all the difference at adding new life to a patio.

Channel Style with Outdoor Furniture

Elevating your patio with outdoor furniture is a sure way to have potential homeowners coming back for more. Like any room, furniture is essential for tying together a space—it channels style and makes it easier for clients to visualize themselves entertaining or lounging in the space.

The key is to channel the style of the demographic and the home. Are you selling a swanky Malibu pad fit for a movie star? Time to bring in some sleek and modern lounge chairs for late night business deals. Or are you working with a French-style chateau that would make anyone feel like royalty? Bring that outdoor space alive with an outdoor dining set with rustic wood accents perfect for big family gatherings.

Have Fun with Accessories

Once the outdoor furniture is in place, it’s time to put a bow on it with fun accessories. If the patio seems barren, remember that outdoor walls are perfect for metal wall art pieces and a new sconce or two. Bring outdoor dining areas to life with a centerpiece or some festive linens, and have fun with patterned pillows and lanterns around a seating area. Don’t forget a fashionable bar cart—it’s a great little addition for urban patios. No matter what style the home is, adding a few key accessories to the outdoor space will make all the difference at creating an appealing sell.

Source: An accredited ASID interior designer, Kerrie Kelly writes for The Home Depot and several other publications about decorating both indoor and outdoor spaces. She provides great advice on increasing backyard appeal by building an outdoor space with great patio furniture and some outdoor accessories.

Bathroom Staging Ideas to Sell a Home Faster

Bathroom Staging Ideas to Sell a Home Faster

April 3, 2017: With the spring selling season upon us, you want to make sure every corner of your listing is show-ready for the rush of buyers. You know the bathroom can make as big an impression as the bedroom or living room, but how often do you go the extra mile to stage it just as perfectly? Home staging expert Tori Toth has some simple ideas for making the bathroom a stronger selling point.

 

5 Tips to Prepare Your Home for Sale

By: G. M. Filisko

Working to get your home ship-shape for showings will increase its value and shorten your sales time.

Many buyers today want move-in-ready homes and will quickly eliminate an otherwise great home by focusing on a few visible flaws. Unless your home shines, you may endure showing after showing and open house after open house — and end up with a lower sales price. Before the first prospect walks through your door, consider some smart options for casting your home in its best light.

1.  Have a Home Inspection

Be proactive by arranging for a pre-sale home inspection. For $250 to $400, an inspector will warn you about troubles that could make potential buyers balk. Make repairs before putting your home on the market. In some states, you may have to disclose what the inspection turns up.

2.  Get Replacement Estimates

If your home inspection uncovers necessary repairs you can’t fund, get estimates for the work. The figures will help buyers determine if they can afford the home and the repairs. Also hunt down warranties, guarantees, and user manuals for your furnace, washer and dryer, dishwasher, and any other items you expect to remain with the house.

3.  Make Minor Repairs

Not every repair costs a bundle. Fix as many small problems — sticky doors, torn screens, cracked caulking, dripping faucets — as you can. These may seem trivial, but they’ll give buyers the impression your house isn’t well maintained.

4.  Clear the Clutter

Clear your kitchen counters of just about everything. Clean your closets by packing up little-used items like out-of-season clothes and old toys. Install closet organizers to maximize space. Put at least one-third of your furniture in storage, especially large pieces, such as entertainment centers and big televisions. Pack up family photos, knickknacks, and wall hangings to depersonalize your home. Store the items you’ve packed offsite or in boxes neatly arranged in your garage or basement.

5.  Do a Thorough Cleaning

A clean house makes a strong first impression that your home has been well cared for. If you can afford it, consider hiring a cleaning service.

If not, wash windows and leave them open to air out your rooms. Clean carpeting and drapes to eliminate cooking odors, smoke, and pet smells. Wash light fixtures and baseboards, mop and wax floors, and give your stove and refrigerator a thorough once-over.

Pay attention to details, too. Wash fingerprints from light switch plates, clean inside the cabinets, and polish doorknobs. Don’t forget to clean your garage, too.

Economic Confidence May Be Housing’s Buoy

Consumers are getting more confident about the economy and their finances, and that could bode well for the real estate market, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ latest Housing Opportunities and Market Experience survey.

Read more: Consumers Are Super Confident About Housing

Indeed, the share of households who say the economy is improving surged to its highest share in the survey’s five-quarter history, reaching 62 percent (up from 48 percent a year ago).

The majority of positive sentiment about the economy is coming from respondents living in the Midwest and rural areas, according to the survey. Last March, 49 percent of Midwesterners and 35 percent of Americans living in rural areas thought the economy was improving. Today, 67 percent of Midwesterns and 63 percent of rural residents report an improvement to the economy.

“Confidence levels generally rise after a presidential election as the nation hopes for the best,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “Even though it is a highly polarized country, consumers for the most part have upbeat feelings about the economy right now. Stronger business and consumer morale typically lead to even more hiring and spending, which in turn encourages more households to make big decisions like buying a home. These positive developments would be especially good news for prospective homebuyers in the more affordable Midwest region.”

Households are also feeling more confident about their finances. Respondents in the HOME survey reported confidence that their financial outlook will improve over the next six months. Financial confidence is at the highest levels in the survey’s history (reaching 62.6 on the index in March, up from a 58.1 reading a year ago).

Renters, however, may not be as confident. Fifty-six percent of renters say now is a good time to buy, down from 62 percent a year ago. Younger households, renters, and Americans living in more pricey areas, like the western region, are the least optimistic about buying. Meanwhile, 80 percent of homeowners say now is a good time to buy a home.

“Inventory conditions are even worse than a year ago and home prices and mortgage rates are on an uphill climb,” says Yun. “These factors are giving many renter households a pause about it being a good time to buy, even as their job prospects improve and wages grow. Unless there’s a significant boost in supply levels this spring, these constraints will unfortunately slow or delay some prospective buyers’ pursuit of purchasing a home.”

Source: “2017 Q1 HOME Survey,” National Association of REALTORS® (March 2017)

7 Steps to Take Before You Buy a Home

By: G. M. Filisko

By doing your homework before you buy, you’ll feel more content about your new home.

Most potential home buyers are a smidge daunted by the fact that they’re about to agree to a hefty mortgage that they’ll be paying for the next few decades. The best way to relieve that anxiety is to be confident you’re purchasing the best home at a price you can afford with the most favorable financing. These seven steps will help you make smart decisions about your biggest purchase.

1. Decide How Much Home You Can Afford

Generally, you can afford a home priced two to three times your gross income. Remember to consider costs every homeowner must cover: property taxes, insurance, maintenance, utilities, and community association fees, if applicable, as well as costs specific to your family, such as day care if you plan to have children.

2. Develop Your Home Wish List

Be honest about which features you must have and which you’d like to have. Handicap accessibility for an aging parent or special needs child is a must. Granite countertops and stainless steel appliances are in the bonus category. Come up with your top five must-haves and top five wants to help you focus your search and make a logical, rather than emotional, choice when home shopping.

3. Select Where You Want to Live

Make a list of your top five community priorities, such as commute time, schools, and recreational facilities. Ask a REALTOR® to help you identify three to four target neighborhoods based on your priorities.

4. Start Saving

Have you saved enough money to qualify for a mortgage and cover your down payment? Ideally, you should have 20% of the purchase price set aside for a down payment, but some lenders allow as little as 5% down. A small down payment preserves your savings for emergencies.

However, the lower your down payment, the higher the loan amount you’ll need to qualify for, and if you still qualify, the higher your monthly payment. Your down payment size can also influence your interest rate and the type of loan you can get.

Finally, if your down payment is less than 20%, you’ll be required to purchase private mortgage insurance. Depending on the size of your loan, PMI can add hundreds to your monthly payment. Check with your state and local government for mortgage and down payment assistance programs for first-time buyers.

5. Ask About All the Costs Before You Sign

A down payment is just one home buying cost. A REALTOR® can tell you what other costs buyers commonly pay in your area — including home inspections, attorneys’ fees, and transfer fees of 2% to 7% of the home price. Tally up the extras you’ll also want to buy after you move-in, such as window coverings and patio furniture for your new yard.

6. Get Your Credit in Order

A credit report details your borrowing history, including any late payments and bad debts, and typically includes a credit score. Lenders lean heavily on your credit report and credit score in determining whether, how much, and at what interest rate to lend for a home. The minimum credit score you can have to qualify for a loan depends on many factors, including the size of your down payment. Talk to a REALTOR® or lender about your particular circumstance.

You’re entitled to free copies of your credit reports annually from the major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Order and then pore over them to ensure the information is accurate, and try to correct any errors before you buy. If your credit score isn’t up to snuff, the easiest ways to improve it are to pay every bill on time and pay down high credit card debt.

7. Get Prequalified

Meet with a lender to get a prequalification letter that says how much house you’re qualified to buy. Start gathering the paperwork your lender says it needs. Most want to see W-2 forms verifying your employment and income, copies of pay stubs, and two to four months of banking statements.

If you’re self-employed, you’ll need your current profit and loss statement, a current balance sheet, and personal and business income tax returns for the previous two years.

Consider your financing options. The longer the loan, the smaller your monthly payment. Fixed-rate mortgages offer payment certainty; an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) offers a lower monthly payment. However, an adjustable-rate mortgage may adjust dramatically. Be sure to calculate your affordability at both the lowest and highest possible ARM rate.

Related:

  • 4 Tips to Determine How Much Mortgage You Can Afford
  • How to Assess the Real Cost of a Fixer-Upper House

Help Clients Cozy Up Their Space

Home owners don’t need to take on a major overhaul to make their homes feel warmer this winter. Design Sponge blogger Grace Bonney says adding soft fabrics, warm lighting, and textures can help. Imagine how potential buyers will feel as they step in from the cold.

Add floor lighting. Keep lamps low and glowing during the winter months to help a space feel cozier and warmer.

Use throws. Try a throw or blanket draped along the sofa, chair, or on the edge of a bed.

Add texture. You can add texture with blankets and throws or even on the walls. Plaster finishes or exposed lathe can add warmth to a space.

Try upholstery. Tufted headboards and cozy upholstered benches can add color and patterns to warm up the room.

Get more pointers on how to use pillows in staging from our Styled, Staged & Sold blog.

Layer pillows. Add more pillows to couches and beds. Try to mix in pillows with soft textures too, like cable knitting or faux fur.

Add curtains and bedskirts. Bonney notes that voluminous curtains and bedskirts can make a space feel warmer. Use soft, natural fabrics like linen or even velvet to cozy up a space.

Source: “10 Ways to Make Any Room Feel Cozier,” Design Sponge (Feb. 10, 2017)