Friday, October 29, 2010

Updating the old Master Bath

My master bathroom was caught in a time warp. My home was built in 1978 and as such had many a renovation to undertake to bring it up to date. Now is a bathroom update necessary? It depends, are you planning on selling? If so, how soon? An out of date bathroom will undoubtedly hurt your chances of selling in a down market, especially if there are plenty of comparables for sale in your neighborhood. To make sure you don't over
Picture of the master bathroom at HighgroveImage via Wikipedia
improve or under improve think of two things: What does the competitors bathroom look like, and what is typical for my price range in new construction. Using these as a guideline should help you figure out just how much improvement should you do.

This vanity area renovation was under $2000.00

Why is this important? Well knowing just the right amount of improvement makes a lot of difference in the ROI you receive if you sell. ROI, "return on your investment" is just how much your improvement costs will be factored back into your wallet when selling your home. If you over improve for your homes price point and for your neighborhood, you may not see a great return on what it costs you. So think wisely on improvements. If no one else, including new construction offer heated tiled flooring in their bathroom, does it make sense that you do? Well if you aren't planning on selling, improve away and enjoy! If you are, think like the potential buyer coming into your specific area. Are they expecting heated tiled flooring in your price range? If the answer is probably not, then your next question is, will they pay for it? Again, probably not, at least not to the degree they are willing to pay a higher price for your home over another home in the area that may have an advantage over yours somewhere else in the home.  It pays to think smart. In renovating your bathroom, updates need not cost a fortune to make a huge difference.

Replacing your old worn out built in vanity, and taking down over sized unattractive mirrors and lighting can make a huge difference in the overall feel of your home. Also consider your buyer age target. If you have a home that is mid-sized to large, your age target group will be late twenties, to late thirties. This age group has children and are buying with the families needs in mind. This age group will not find the outdated bathroom attractive as they have come from a time of new found interior education via HG TV. They know what they want and what they don't want. This age group will definitely not appreciate the seventies style bathroom you are selling. This age group probably can't afford a lot of luxury touches either. So think simple, think fresh, think new.
Bathroom - by UlybugImage via Wikipedia
The toilet in this pic is common in
European hom
If you use a little common sense in your renovations, with an eye on the future, you will have a home that will not only be beautiful but sellable.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Wonderful ways to renovate on a budget

2bath remodelImage by dawnella66 via FlickrHaving a budget when renovating can either be a hindrance or open up a lot of wonderful creative possibilities. It really comes down to the individual and the determination and creativity they are willing to put their efforts to. If you are the type that has to play it safe with every project, you could be missing out on some wonderful ideas that may seem unconventional but will have broad scope appeal in design.  Read more on Wonderful ways to renovate on a budget

Monday, October 25, 2010

Tips For Cleaning the Kitchen in Less Time

Collect Your Cleaning Supplies
Before you can begin cleaning anything, you will need to collect all the necessary cleaning supplies. Cleaning your kitchen can be done efficiently and effectively in very little time if you organize your cleaning supplies. You will need a good oven cleaner, several scrub rags, some sort of scrubbers, an abrasive cleaner, a small bucket of hot soapy water and one good all purpose cleaner. Your choice of cleaning products is a personal decision. Some people want to purchase only “green” products, while some other people have specific cleaners that they have been using for eons and they don’t want to change. Some people clean everything with vinegar, some others swear by baking soda. It really doesn’t matter what kind of cleaner you choose to use, as long as it does the job you need it to do. If it works for you, that’s the one you need to use.
Where to  Begin
Always start at the top of any room you clean. Use a duster with an extended handle or a mop with a clean rag wrapped around it and pinned to keep it secure. Go all the way around the room to remove any cobwebs. You can also clean your ceiling fan this way, if you have one. Sometimes the ceiling fan collects grease from preparing greasy foods and you will need to scrub the fan blades with your all purpose cleaner to remove the grease. With a clean cloth, wipe the chair rail all the way around the room. Use your broom all the way around the baseboards to remove dust and hair. Spray and wipe the top of the refrigerator and cabinets. Wipe the cabinet fronts down to remove spatter and debris. Wipe the counter tops down with your all purpose cleaner. Wipe the fronts of all your bottom cabinets. Scour the sink and rinse thoroughly. Wipe off your table and chairs if you have a set in your kitchen. Sweep and scrub the floor according to the type of floor you have.
Use This for That
Use caution to use the right cleaner for the job you are doing. While most of the cleaners are considered all purpose and they will clean almost anything, there are situations where you will need to use a degreaser for problem areas and of course you will need to use an oven cleaner for spills in the oven. Most cleaners work better when the spray is allowed to set for a few minutes before you begin to clean. Oven cleaner usually will work better if you spray it on, and then turn the oven on to about 200 degrees for about 30 minutes before you begin to clean. Never spray oven cleaner onto hot elements! For extremely bad tub bottoms in bathrooms you can spray on some oven cleaner and let it set. Be sure you remove all  the oven cleaner by rinsing thoroughly before the next use.
Store it all Close-By
Create your self a box or basket with all of your cleaning supplies in it where it’s easy to grab when it’s time to clean. Keep this box very organized and return your scrub rags back to the box as soon as they are cleaned and dry.
Using her favorite slow cooker means that Lisa “The Crock Cook” doesn’t have to waste much time cleaning up after making meals in the kitchen. Two of her favorite slower cooker recipes  are  slow cooker chicken recipes and slow cooker desserts.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The best pricing strategies for home sellers

Home for sale in Gautier, Ms that qualifies fo...

Selling your home in a down market is a scary thought. Home listings are everywhere and the competition is at an all time high nationwide. If you have made all the upgrades and your home screams of curb appeal and you are still not getting any bites it may be the price that is hurting your chances.

Coming up with an effective pricing strategy will assure that you have not only a good start to your home getting sold, but will expedite your buying the next home.  There are lots of errors people make when pricing a home. Most often it is pricing the home above current market conditions. These strategies will help you price your home well, especially if you have opted to sell your home independently of a realtor.

1. Do your comparison homework-
Check current real estate websites in your town and do a run down of what the comparables are in your area.  To get the best overall idea, use homes that are in a five mile radius of where you live. Pay attention to square footage, number of baths, number of bedrooms, size of the lot, year the home was built, and whether it has a garage. These are key factors most people look at primarily when purchasing a home.  Gather the data, and list down each homes price. Add all the prices up and then divide by the number of homes for sale, including your own. This gives you an average price of the homes in your area. Is your home above, below or right on target?

2. Strategy-
If you are selling your home yourself, you need to use every possible available resource to your advantage.  Price your home just under what the average home is for sale for to give your home that little edge and then let the bidding begin. Use free advertising where you can get it. For instance, Ebay has a classified section online that will let you post anything you have for sale. Since it is free and you can write up your own home advertisement, do so, what do you have to lose? Utilize sites like Zillow will let you post your home on their site and you can list, and include the best photos of your home on the site to generate offers. Place ads in the paper on a regular basis stating your open house dates and times. Remember you are competing with real estate agents so be aggressive in your selling strategy. Pass out flyers in your neighborhoods as well as have your friends post them in their place of work.  A viral marketing strategy can  only help.

3. Know your competition-
Knowing what the other homes have to offer in your area is important. You can usually highlight whatever attributes your home has above the competition. Point out your updates, and make sure to convey all of your homes pertinent information at all Open houses.

4. Create a home facts sheet- 
Print up copies of you home facts and info sheet that includes home square footage, yearly taxes, insurance, home owners fees, lot size, special features, number of bedrooms, and make sure the home fact sheet you create includes great photos of your homes kitchen, bedrooms, walk in closets and bathrooms. Try to anticipate what buyers questions will be and include that in the fact sheet. List recent replacements and updates.
5. Have a plan-
If your home doesn’t sell in a months time, 3 at the most, you may have to come up with a new plan. That plan can be in the form of a price reduction, or it may be finally calling in the realtors to have them put their resources to work for you. Once you commission a real estate agency, there is no reason you have to sit back and wait, you can still actively pursue your home selling. It simply means that regardless of whether you found your buyer, or the agency does, you will still have to pay them their commission. However, you will increase your odds by actively finding buyers yourself. Just remember to them the name of your listing agent to let them show your home to the potential buyer. The end goal is always to get the home sold as fast as possible.

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*******Mortgage deals first time home buyers should avoid

ELGIN, IL - MAY 12:  A vacant home is offered ...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
As the past few years have indicated there has been a huge problem with the housing market. The inventory of homes for sale on the market is huge, while buyers are few and far between. First time home buyers will find themselves being prayed upon in a desperate market if they are not extremely savvy about what is a good deal, and what could be the worst decision of their lives.
Read the top five worst mortgage deals here:
Mortgage deals first time home buyers should avoid

Mortgage deals first time home buyers should avoid

MIAMI - DECEMBER 4:  Penni Chasens (2R), maste...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeAs the past few years have indicated there has been a huge problem with the housing market. The inventory of homes for sale on the market is huge, while buyers are few and far between. First time home buyers will find themselves being prayed upon in a desperate market if they are not extremely savvy about what is a good deal, and what could be the worst decision of their lives. Read more about, Mortgage deals first time home buyers should avoid

Monday, October 18, 2010

******Bringing Turkish Delight into Your Home

A fine example from House of Area Rugs
Even though the Ottoman Empire is no more, and the modern country of Turkey is very different from its historical forerunner, Turkish history and culture has left an interesting impression on home decorating styles.

Turkey is itself an interesting dichotomy. Located between Europe and Asia, its culture is an interesting mix of Eastern traditionalism and Western secularism. This is mirrored in its beautiful architecture and art. Visit any country that used to be under the Ottoman Empire and you will still see some of the magnificent palaces and elegant stone houses that the ancient Turks built.

Today, you can bring a touch of Turkish delight into your home by decorating the rooms with traditional Turkish art. If you visit Istanbul, you can still find plenty of traditional craft items on sale in its busy bazaars and market places. And even if you don’t, you can find Turkish accessories in many craft stores around the world.

Traditional Turkish art is very decorative and ornate. One of the most popular forms of this art is the area rug. An oriental area rug is a beautiful item to decorate any room with. There are many such area rugs  in ornate, colorful designs.

The use of lace is very widespread in Turkish culture. You can drape your tables with handmade lace cloths, with their intricate, needlepoint designs. Lace bed covers are also very popular. These are also handmade and they cover the bed with a beautiful, ornate bed skirt. Anatolian lace, from the Turkish region of Anatolia, is particularly intricate and eye-catching.

One of the most popular traditions in Turkish culture is drinking strong, black, sweet Turkish coffee from small, elegant china cups. These tiny cups are very colorful and are usually hand-painted with strikingly beautiful designs. They do not only serve as a drinking utensil but can also be used to decorate a room. Leave them laid out on your sideboard or coffee table – ready for use but also as a beautiful centerpiece in your living room.

The traditional Turkish lamp is also a very popular and elegant item to place inside any living room. You can purchase several types of lamp. Some are floor lamps, while others are attached to the ceiling. From example, a traditional Turkish floor lamp is made from colored glass and brass and it provides light and beauty to any room. A ceiling lamp may be suspended with chains. Again, it is also ornate and looks like a work of art. You can also decorate a room with an ottoman table lamp, and if you want a rather unusual curiosity, how about an Aladdin’s lamp? A traditional Turkish oil lamp looks absolutely beautiful when polished and it can give off a considerable amount of light.

Trends that may date your home in the future

1" x 1" glass mosaic tileImage via WikipediaGreat design is all about a seamless transition throughout the ages. Great design seldom follows trends, but instead relies on timeless proven beauty merged with great form and function. When renovating and updating your home you have to use a keen eye to be sure not to be tempted into  a momentary trend that may be taking place at the time your do your remodeling. It is very important in your renovation process not to over use trends that may end up "dating" your home later on.
One has to train their eyes to know the difference between a design element that is timeless, and one that may only be a trend of the times. So how does one avoid the pitfalls of decor trends that will come back to haunt you in the future? There are a few signals to be mindful of. Look for big pushes of certain decor related materials in the home stores. When you see stores stocking up on a lot of certain types of design element, chances are it is a new trend that has emerged. For instance, glass tile backsplash is easy to install and seen more and more in kitchen and bath renovations. Because it is a hot item right now and also is convenient for do it yourself types to install it is going into kitchen and baths everywhere. There is no sure fire way of determining that this may be a temporary trend or an ear mark of the time period, but from a designer stand point it is beginning to seem a little "too trendy". That being said, if you truly love it, you should always do it. Other ways to determine whether some renovation element is a trend, is by seeing if it has been around for a while. Usually items that are here to stay in design and decor will have shown up many times through out the ages. Go back 20-30 years and see what design elements are still being used. This is a good indicator that this may be a design/decor element that will have some staying power and be hard to pin down to a trend that was done in the 2010 period.  This is not limited to any particular material, or style. Sometimes the best way to get a trendy look to stay fashionable after it has stayed its welcome is to always incorporate old and new together. Merging old and new together keeps the livelihood of the design going and it is able to easily transition the eras. See HGTV's Flooring Trend: Layering area rugs.
Old bathrooms that have some high end finishes, can actually become a trend in and of itself. Make sure though, the old element of another era still has something attractive working for it. Salmon colored tiles will have a hard time merging with anything contemporary in a classy way. There are usually great work around for all bad trends from the past. Mixing traditional, with contemporary, and modern with classic can be a great look. See:  HGTV's Contemporary Style in a Traditional Living Room. The most important thing to remember is they still have to share some common way  in how they relate to each other. Sometimes the new design trend needs to be downplayed, sometimes the older traditional elements in your home need to be downplayed.
With most clever budget friendly designs and remodels it is all about the moderation, and the relationships between the contrasting items. An old iron candlestick may pair well with a new set of contemporary bookends. What can the common ground be? Maybe it is the dark colors, or the shapes involved. Train your eye to find the likenesses between old and new and you will be able to bypass being caught in a trend time warp.
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Friday, October 15, 2010

Past interior design blunders of the experts

Colouring pencilsImage via WikipediaIf you have ever watched interior design shows throughout the years. you have no doubt seen from time to time real design disasters. Experts may have blamed limited budgets, or a lack of time for their mishaps, while others may have thought their originality was spot on. Some of these ideas have in recent times started to be abandoned and with good reason. They weren't practical then, and they aren't practical today. Here are five that stand out, that you probably should avoid.
 Read more here:
Past interior design blunders of the experts

Ten great housewarming gifts

giftsImage via WikipediaWhenever a friend or family member buys a new home they are usually overwhelmed with the huge undertaking involved with moving in a new place. Thoughtful housewarming gifts can be a great way to help them during what can be a stressful time.
1. Fire extinguisher- In many instances, it takes weeks to unpack all of the necessities we need during a move. A handy fire extinguisher in the kitchen may be something the home owner hasn't even given thought to, but nonetheless, it is an important and handy thing to have on hand.

2. Restaurant gift certificates- One thing many homeowners don't want to do is have to cook while in the moving process. The exhaustion from the move will leave them starving but with little energy to cook. This is a nice treat for new home owners. Make sure the certificates are for informal family style restaurants.

3. Paper plates, hot and cold cups, and plastic utensils- These simple items will help  new home owners settle into their new home easily while still unpacking dishes and pots.

4. Candles, matches, and bottled water- Sometimes the electricity is shut off during a move, and many home owners don't know where their own flashlights, candles, etc are until well settled. This is something hands on they may need without having to look into all those boxes to find them.

5. First aid kit-
It is not uncommon for home owners to have accidents during a move. Having a handy first aid kit available, especially if the homeowner has children is a great way for them to take care of accidents without wondering where they packed the bandages.

6. A set of plain white towels, washcloths, hand sanitizer and soap-
As mentioned, moving into a home is a long process. It can take weeks to find everything one packed away. A great housewarming gift is a set of four or five bath towels to help them until they settle in. White goes with everything, and are easy to identify as being soiled.

7. Home cooked casserole meals- Another great gift is to bring over a covered dish, that can be easily heated in a microwave. When there is so much work to do this will make the evening meal a relief.

8. Note pads, pens,measuring tape and a calculator-
These items may seem strange, but it is handy to have a way to make a list for things you may need during a move. A calculator and measuring tape can be a huge help when figuring out what items will fit where. It is also handy for calculating costs involved with home improvements of all kinds.

9. A few boxes of light bulbs and batteries- Having some fresh light bulbs when moving into a new home will keep you one step ahead of the game. It is also a good to have a various assortment of batteries for things like clocks, flashlights, and smoke alarms.

10. House warming care package- A care package with all of the above listed items is a great housewarming gift. Throw in paper towels and a few cleaning products and you will have a housewarming care package that will be practical thoughtful and very appreciated.

Flooring upgrades that impact home value - Columbia home and living |

Flooring upgrades that impact home value - Columbia home and living |

*****Flooring upgrades that really add to your homes value

An example of solid wood flooring, site finish...Image via Wikipedia
Did you know some home improvements have consistently shown to be a better investment overall for your homes value? There are some home improvements that will yield little in the ROI, "return on your investment". That being said, there are a few upgrades and flooring choices that could hurt your homes value, whether appraisal wise, or resale value. Here’s a few improvements that will punch up your home's appraisal, and a few that will knock it down to the "floor" so to speak.
Read this important info here:
Flooring upgrades that impact home value

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tips for a successful house flip

Decorating Ideas for Autumn

English: Pumpkin carving - photo taken in dark...
English: Pumpkin carving - photo taken in darkness to show the effect of illumination from within (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Autumn brings forth warm colors and cool temperatures…As summer winds down, and you start to notice that first tickle of a cool breeze stirring through the trees, you know you are about to witness the most colorful time of year. Autumn is a time of year to be thankful, and also to appreciate the beautiful colors and outdoor wonders. During this time of year many love to express their love  for this season through décor, inside and outside of the home. Here are a few ideas to have your home reflect all the warmth you feel, even as the weather slowly turns chilly.

Though it may not be cold enough outside to get your fireplace going, you can add a little seasonal Autumn glow in the evening. Fireplace logs can be used in a decorative way. You can make them a wonderful centerpiece for your fireplace mantle or even display it inside the fire place. Simply split your log, and using an electric drill outfitted with a drill bit made for door knobs and deadbolt lock installation you can create a wonderful candle holder log. Just drill around four evenly spaced holes into the rounded side of your split log and drop in pumpkin spiced scented votive candles. Place on your mantle, or on shelves with scattered leaves, gourds and pine cones to create a warm conversation piece in the home.

Gourds and baby pumpkins can be used in so many ways to decorate .  You can usually find these at your  local grocery store  in the vegetable section.  There is usually a great selection of wonderful little baby pumpkins and decorative colorful gourds. These are wonderful as part of a centerpiece in the dining room. Simply pile them on a beautiful decorative turkey platter with a Tall candle in the middle, again place walnuts (in the shell), acorns, pine cones all around and mix in with the pumpkins and gourds. You can also insert a vase in the middle and add a bouquet of fall flowers and foliage.

Chrysanthemums are a beautiful addition to any decor, but they are used a great deal in Autumn, when they are in full bloom. These beautiful flowers add cheer, welcoming warmth inside and out of your home.  A wonderful way to incorporate the beauty of Chrysanthemums and the harvest season  is to get one medium to large sized pumpkin, cut off the cap, clean and scoop it out just as you would for a Jack-o-Lantern. Spray the interior with Lemon juice and allow to thoroughly dry. Once dry, take a handful of baking soda and rub around the interior of the pumpkin. This will preserve the pumpkin longer. Place a saucer in the bottom and insert a potted Chrysanthemum. Try different sized pumpkins, and just cut the hole big enough to hold the pot up and have a gorgeous display on a bed of fresh hay.

Cruise antique shops, yard sales etc. to find old wheel barrels and old wooden rocking chairs, these make wonderful yard accents when you place them in a autumn themed setting. Sit on them large baskets with mums and pumpkins scattered around with hay for an attractive focal point in your yard.

Old tomato cages in varying sizes can be used for Halloween by turning upside down, stringing outdoor holiday lights and covering with inexpensive white sheets with ghost faces drawn on in permanent magic markers. Once plugged in at night you have an adorable ghostly display for trick-or-treaters.

▷▷▷▷▷▷▷Decorating your home for Halloween

In front of haunted house during Halloween sea...Image via Wikipedia
Many may not think it is necessary to decorate for Halloween but many of us already decorate for Autumn, and incorporating a little spooky charm into the mix is easy to do.
The universal rule during Halloween is, if you are decorating your yard for Halloween, you are passing out candy. If you don't intend on passing out candy, leave the Halloween decor out of your Autumn design scheme. Disappointing a ton of neighborhood children in a single night could result in the scene from the original Frankenstein movie, with villagers giving chase with torches in hand. Here are a few fun ways to decorate your home and yard this Halloween.
Read these nifty ideas here: 
Decorating your home for Halloween

▷▷▷▷▷▷▷Decorating ideas for Autumn

autumn stopped byImage by champagne.chic via Flickr
Autumn brings forth warm colors and cool temperatures…As summer winds down, and you start to notice that first tickle of a cool breeze stirring through the trees, you know you are about to witness the most colorful time of year. Autumn is a time of year to be thankful, and also to appreciate the beautiful colors and outdoor wonders. During this time of year many love to express their love  for this season through décor, inside and outside of the home. Here are a few ideas to have your home reflect all the warmth you feel, even as the weather slowly turns chilly.
Please read more here on  
Decorating ideas for Autumn

▷▷▷▷▷▷▷Six tips for a successful house flip

Handymen can install kitchen cabinets like the...Image via Wikipedia
House flipping is the acquisition of real estate that is in poor repair, renovating and reselling it for profit. The method for finding homes that are ideal for house flipping is to locate the worst home for sale in a good neighborhood, preferably listed well below its potential market value ie: a handyman special. Renovations ideally have to occur in a short period of time, and should complete well in advance of the first mortgage payment. In a down housing market, house flipping is tricky, risky and strategy, budget and common sense are needed to avoid flopping on your first flip. There are a few things that must be considered to have a successful flip.
1. Research the area of the home prior to purchase
The easiest way to research the housing market in an area of a potential house flip is by checking the local real estate companies online. Most real estate sites have a list of all the homes in a specific area that are on the market, study the comparables, the prices, and take a look at the photos included with the listed homes. These will give you a great idea as to what others in the area are offering in their homes. Take note of the kitchen cabinets, counters, flooring, and bathroom conditions. These are the competition, along with new construction, which is also something to research. New construction for your target listing price need to be looked at as well. This will tell you exactly what home owners are looking for in your home.
2. Don’t ignore red flags,  get a home inspection
 Before agreeing to purchase a home, go over it very carefully with a fine toothed comb and have it inspected by a professional. Most homes that have potential to be flipped are in bad need of repair, certain issues that are hiding in homes that are in disrepair are huge red flags. Look for the following red flags: mold, water damage, termite infestation, carpenter ants, cracks in the foundation, and standing water in basements. These red flags can lead to expensive budget busting fixes and set back your date of completion well beyond your goal.
3. Repair instead of replace
 Your budget is the single most important tool to have at your disposal. Getting caught up in cosmetic wish lists can send you right into a poor house that looks worse than the one you’re working on. In a successful house flip, it is not necessary to totally gut rooms. In fact these types of moves can consume your budget, drive down your profit and extend the amount of time you have to get the home ready for the market. If cabinets aren’t to your liking, refer back to your research to see what other homes are offering in the area. If most offer builder grade oak cabinets, etc. there is no sense in your adding high end Maple and /or Cherry. Consider cabinet re-facing, and painting the existing cabinets to freshen up the look in the room. If other homes have standard laminate counter tops, simply have your houses counter tops re-laminated using a great quality laminate that is still a great improvement over the competition without consuming your budget like granite might, which may be an over improvement for the neighborhood and for your homes price point. Its not about having the best , its simply about having better. Give yourself a budget buffer for all unforeseen problems, including the possibility of carrying a few mortgage payments if the home doesn’t sell by the time your mortgage is due.
4. Don’t take it personal
One mistake many house flippers make is exceeding their budget by putting taste specific upgrades into the flip along with a long wish list of features that suit them personally. It isn’t about you it is about the potential buyer. Keep your color pallets neutral, fresh and update reasonably. A buyer looking at a $150,000.00 home isn’t expecting a mansion, they are looking at the best possible deal for their money and your advantages must be played up.
5. Location, location, location
 Buying a fixer upper in a economically depressed area is a bad idea. If they whole neighborhood looks bad, fixing your home up won’t get you a profit. Keep in mind that home values are at all time lows to begin with, even in most upscale areas. Find that one rotten egg in what would ordinarily be a wonderful up and coming area and focus on that target.
6. Get those permits
Make sure you get all of your building permits prior to any work being done on your home, especially if you plan on major gut jobs, adding square footage, electrical and plumbing over hauls. Make sure you tackle those big problems early on and leave the cosmetic improvements to the last stages in the flip.

Kitchen cabinet display in NJ in 2009. For use...Image via Wikipedia

Monday, October 11, 2010

▷▷▷▷▷▷▷How to tackle big renovations

Houses that require a complete renovation from one room to the next is an overwhelming task. It can be hard to know not only where to start in the renovation process but also how to start.  Here are a few guidelines on how to tackle your big renovations.

Decide on a list of priorities. Don't just jump in without any thought to what should be done. Ask yourself these questions:

1. Why are you renovating? Sounds like a silly question with an obvious answer but people do renovate for different reasons. Some renovations are motivated by need, some by want. Renovations done by need are those which will significantly improve the lives of those inhabiting the space. This may be the case when someone buys a home that has not been taken care of, not well maintained, lacking the basic necessities required to live safely and in good health. Fixer uppers, homes damaged by neglect, weather, fire..these homes must be renovated to be inhabited and so they will likely need the greatest amount of work and monetary resources. Renovations motivated by want are likely due to homeowners wishing to improve the form, function and aesthetic appeal. These include updating existing appliances, minor layout changes, adding a window, or switching out counter tops. These can be just as costly but you have some control over how much you spend because the home still functions and is livable.
2. How much can I afford? Budget Budget Budget. You always have to have an idea of how much money you have to spend. Getting estimates is key to helping your determine what you can afford. Whether you use the contractor or not it can still be helpful to know what sort of money may be involved. Whatever you think you can afford, add at least 30% to that as a contingency fund, because I have yet to see a renovation that doesn't cost more than what you think.
3. Can I live with the inconveniences of a renovation especially if  I need to live elsewhere and if the renovation is going to take several months. All of these things need to be determined rather early on. If you have to live elsewhere, you will need to know if that involves paying rent, or money of any kind. That also has to be figured into the budget so don't forget to ask that question. All renovations take longer than expected. The older the home the longer the renovation is, so go into this with both your eyes wide open. Renovations typically cost more and take longer, especially in older homes. The unforeseens will eat up your contingency fund quickly.
4. What is the biggest problem? By narrowing down the biggest issues first, you automatically give yourself a list of priorities. Once this list has been established you will need to think in terms of layers. What is causing the issue? Perhaps you have a wall that blocks your kitchen from the family room. You have to look at why is that wall there to begin with? Is it structural? Is it load bearing? If you're not sure you have to make this determination first.  Depending on your knowledge of renovations, you may or may not need to bring in an expert to make that determination. That has to be factored into the budget. Train yourself to look at each area of the renovation using "Superman" eyes. See past the dry wall, the floor, most of the time the renovations start in the structure of the home and work its way forward.  You may start out thinking you don't like your shower because it leaks so you want to renovate your bathroom.  Pulling out the old and putting in the new isn't as simple as it sounds. The leak may prompt you to renovate, but the leak has to be addressed long before you can even think about what color to choose for your walls. The leak may reveal rotten wood, maybe even mold. Renovation is about layers. You can not work from the outside in if you're addressing an issue that is from the inside..Renovations prompted by problems like flickering lights, leaky faucets, flooding toilets, cold spots, hot spots, all suggest hidden issues, hidden costs and time delays.  By addressing the biggest problem first you may not be able to afford an entire renovation, but you may have taken care of a problem that was or could have been catastrophic at some point. Will you get your luxury bath? Maybe not, but you may stop something as vile as black mold or rot from completely ruining your home or affecting your health.
5. Can your relationship withstand renovation? You laugh but renovations can test even the strongest relationships. The stress, the worry, the finances, the frustrations can all cause a lot of friction in the family. Again, go in with your eyes wide open.
6. Can I be practical and realistic? If you are an impatient person, or given to splurges with money, or think Rome was built by Property Brothers, renovations may not be for you. You'd likely be better off  moving into a move in ready home than trying to pull off a successful renovation. Renovations have to be rooted in practicality. You can't always get what you want, when you want it. You have to be patient, organized and be able to be flexible. Compromise is your best friend. Being frugal is helpful, but some things you can not be cheap on. Save where it makes sense, being penny wise and pound foolish makes one a very unhappy homeowner.

Finding Your Favorite Floor

English: Bamboo flooring(http://www.floorprodu...English: Bamboo flooring(,Bamboo Flooring. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When you decorate a room, you usually think about your color scheme, the furniture, accessories and furnishings such as curtains and wall-decorations, the type of paint or wallpaper you will use, and the lighting. But what about the floor? That is often a part of a room that gets very neglected. After all, you may think, who cares about the floor? Is anyone looking at it anyway?

In fact, if you think this way you are quite mistaken. The kind of flooring that you have can make a huge difference to a room. For example, if you have a large, drafty room, you will find that a stone floor will make it feel much colder. Therefore, you are much better off either fitting a soft, thick pile carpet or even a wooden floor to make it feel warmer. On the other hand, if you visit a hot country, you will probably find that the floors are made from marble or stone, which cools down a hot, stuffy room. In Asian countries, you will find bamboo rugs or tatami mats to soften a wooden floor.

Another feature about flooring is that it can add the finishing touch to the look of a room. For example, no matter what kind of flooring you have, if the floor in any room is dirty or cluttered, the rest of the room can have beautiful, immaculate furniture, but the room will look terrible. On the other hand, if the floor is spotlessly clean, even if the sofas are piled with clutter the room still looks orderly.

If we take this idea a little further, if you are trying to achieve a very elegant, sophisticated look, maybe with some antique vases or terracotta, Italian marble will add the finishing touches. On the other hand, if you want a minimalist look, a plain wooden floor, maybe with a small contemporary rug, will do the job.

You don’t have to stick with a single kind of flooring either. For example, you may want to use a carpet with contrasting area rug on top, or have a wooden floor with some rugs here and there. The great thing, in fact, about area rugs is that you can move them around whenever you want if you wish to vary the look of the room. You are also not bound to one color or style all the time.

Another factor to consider is the use of the room. For example, in the bathroom, you may prefer tiles or linoleum to carpet or wood because of the constant exposure to water. You need materials that will not be damaged by moisture and are easily cleaned. In the kitchen, you will need materials that are both water and heat resistant because of the presence of your oven and other appliances. They should also be easily washed due to the many accidental spills that occur in most family kitchens.

So when you are designing or decorating a room, think of the flooring that is the best for you in terms of price range, look, usage, and conditions of the room, and you will see that the right choice will make all the difference.
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Friday, October 8, 2010

Does your bathroom need an overhaul?

Bathroom Before and After Photograph
Photograph by Dawn Gagnon

Does your bathroom need an overhaul?
Next to kitchen remodels the other most important selling feature in your home are bathrooms. As society in general becomes more decor savvy, real estate savvy and with more sophisticated tastes, it is really important to have your bathroom look its best.

What to budget?
Bathroom remodels can range anywhere from $2500 to $25,000.00 and higher. If you have a small budget, narrow down your upgrades to simply replacing dated items that are highly visible or in the worst shape. If you can do the work yourself, you are certainly going save a great deal of money. For budget savvy solutions, you might want to consider addressing what the chief problem is and formulating a budget that will allow for you to  make one splurge on one chief area and make only cosmetic changes to freshen the whole room up. If your bathtub needs replacing, that could be the splurge and then simply add nice fresh touches like new sink fixtures, fresh new towels, and a trendy new shower curtain. You can always make more improvements later on. By addressing the chief problem first with a small budget you are playing it smart.

Updated Bathroom
Photograph by Dawn Gagnon

What improvements are the right ones?
Once your budget amount has been assessed, another area to give thought to is what would a buyer expect to find in a home that is in your homes price range? If your home is in an area where the average home sells for $500,000.00 or better, the bathroom upgrades would need to reflect that. However, for homes $200,000.00 and less, your bathroom upgrades can be modest and still yield good results if you sell. The most important factor to remember is what would be expected for your homes price. This means simply, do not over improve for the area. This doesn't mean you can't have the bathroom of your dreams, it simply means don't do it if you are looking for a maximum return on your investment. What can a $2500.00 budget get you? Well, depending on how much of the work you can do yourself quite a lot. A good reference to use it to think about what is being put in new construction. Builder grade materials are improving so don't turn your nose up at it,instead take note of what features new home baths have.  The bathrooms are being built larger, and including double vanities, tiled flooring, and large jetted tubs are in many. 

Bathroom Remodel
Photograph by Dawn Gagnon

High end looks on a small budget
Sometimes the best looking improvement you make are the most inexpensive ones. Things you can do to give a high end look to a bathroom would be to include wanes coting, crown molding, and made-to-like-stone floor tiles. Never replace cheap with cheap, but you should always replace old and dated with new and improved. Textured and paintible wallpapers are now making a comeback into design, and for old walls that need a little extra dressing up, this is an inexpensive instant improvement. There are beautiful accessories that can be found in inexpensive stores as well. Add touches of elegance with lighting, and wall decor.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Painting green for a healthier home

New Paint
Image by Moosicorn via Flickr

A few decades ago, painting a room involved a major process of opening windows and doors, sleeping in other rooms, and hours and hours of dry time. Little did the consumer know, the walls they were painting were laden with lead, and high concentrations of VOC's.
Now the homeowner has options like never before to make their home beautiful, healthier and Eco friendly. Why go low or no voc? Volatile organic compounds, release a breathable gas into the air that is filled with cancer-linked carcinogens. It is safe to assume any paint that has a strong odor is probably harboring a high concentration of this volatile organic compound. The higher the level of volatile organic compounds, the more likely one is to experience headaches, health problems in the very old, the very young and in those with chronic illnesses or allergies. Always check the voc levels on all paint you purchase and if you hire a paint contractor, insist on low voc or no voc paints to be used.
Good News- Due to the wave of new environmentally conscious consumers emerging, low or no v-o-c paints are now being sold all over the country. Paint manufacturers like Benjamin Moore, have these great choices readily available. Be prepared though, the cost is higher per gallon. Depending on what manufacturer you chose, the cost could vary as much as 20 dollars per gallon. As with any varying degree of cost, there are also varying degrees of quality, so a smart approach for the homeowner is to do some research if following a budget.

For the truly Eco minded
- Strict green enthusiasts need not worry,  there are  a few companies also offering recycled, post consumer paints. The Kelly Moore Company offers brand E Coat and it is available in flat latex as well as semi gloss finishes. It is comprised of a minimum of 50 percent post consumer waste paint. Research on this type of paint is also recommended to find the best price versus quality offered. As with all home projects done by the home owner, make sure to use every safety precaution, and make sure you know all the facts and warnings associated with any home renovation project, small or large.
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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Green Home Upgrades

Outunit of heat pumpImage via Wikipedia Interior design is about the total home. Long gone are the days when interior designers only had to decorate, renovate and re-design a home structurally. Now, they have to move into the green era of home improvements that are eco-friendly as well. As society becomes more environmentally savvy, they want their homes to reflect this as well. Today, more than ever, people are looking for eco-friendly home improvements that aren't only better for the environment but also wallet friendly as well. There are many options available if you are considering a few upgrades for your home. These upgrades can also boost home value, and be a great selling feature if you are planning to sell.

Older wooden windows are not the worst environmentally negative thing in your home, however, they do tend to let far more energy escape from your home and need a lot of maintenance. Always opt for energy star qualified replacement windows that are made with Low E glass.
Low E glass has a metallic coating inside the panes and lowers the windows ability to transfer heat. Low Emission windows have other great features too, including easy to open,install, and cleaning with tilt-in varieties. Low E Windows can save a homeowner as much as $500 a year when replacing single pane windows.
Did you know just changing out your old thermostat for a programmable new one can save you? According to some research, changing your old thermostat out for a programmable one can prevent enough CO2 emissions to remove upwards of 600 cars on the road a year! If everyone did this can your imagine the impact?
Get rid of that old water heater-
Water heaters are huge energy consumers in your home. The benefits of tank-less water heaters are many. They can replace huge bulky tanks and can fit in a closet, under a cabinet or even under a sink. Large tank heaters have to store gallons of water at a time and stay running to keep the water hot. Tank-less water heaters can help you save up to 20% on your energy bill too, and heats water as you need it, which doesn't waste near the energy. New home buyers are environmentally savvy and will find your eco-friendly upgrades a definite quality. There are of course improvements in electric water heaters that use tanks as well. Including some that use heat pump technology to produce hot water faster, and use much less energy than the standard water heater uses. Either way, you can expect to save money, energy and also have a great feature to add to your homes list if you decide to sell.
Heating and Air Conditioning-
Needless to say if your unit is old it is well worth it to change this out. There are many great options in heat pumps out there, and to be completely honest, if you are replacing an old model with a new one, you probably are going to save money with out a lot of research in the matter.  If you are really interested in getting something that will take it even further consider researching the new Geothermal Heat Pumps. Innovative in design and concept, a geothermal heat pump uses the ground as a transfer medium since it is denser than air and thus makes it far more efficient. Think in terms of how your refrigerator works, with a compressor that moves the heat outside of the fridge and refrigerant cools it down and re-circulates the cold back into the unit. The geothermal heat pump, works in much the same way, but instead of coils on the back of the unit, they are buried in the ground, how neat is that?
Your Refrigerator-
Since your refrigerator is one of the few appliances that is in your home that runs everyday, 365 days a year, it is no wonder it is one of the biggest energy "gobblers" out there. In fact, they consume around 14 percent of all the energy used in your home. So with that in mind it makes sense to replace an old one in your home. Did you know bottom freezer refrigerators use less energy than side by side refrigerators, up to 16 percent? This percentage may in fact be higher since the data on this information is several years old, as is much data in research is. If you truly want an upgrade that is truly energy efficient, and does actually use less energy, opt for bottom freezer models. To take it that extra mile in energy saving ability, opt out of the automatic ice makers, or chose those that have the ability to be turned off. Ice makers alone use up to 25 percent more energy. This makes ice trays look a little better don't they, if not, a lot wiser. Try also to look for a smaller model if at all possible. Many larger models are need extra housing capabilities for more drawers, shelves etc., but actually don't store any more actual food. Try going for one a little smaller, the price tag will smile at you a little more, and the extra money will let you get that stainless steel model that everyone else has.
To get ideas on how to update your home and become eco friendly, visit HGTV for all the latest ideas in eco friendly upgrades and designs for your home.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Guide for first time home sellers

Lets say you've outgrown your digs and are ready to move. Selling a home in a down market can be a scary thought. Will you be able to pay off the balance? Will there be money left for the next purchase? Will your home sell in under three months, or will it sit on the market for a year with little or no interest? These are all fears a first time home seller may have but knowing what you're up against is half the battle. Consider these strategies when placing your home up for sale.

1. Do your research-
Before you place your home on the market research your area and your homes current market value, to get an idea.  Fortunately people have access via the internet that will allow them to take a look at comparable homes in the area. Knowing what they are currently selling for will help you gauge the value of your home. Knowing a rough idea of what your home is worth will help you determine whether it is a good idea to sell or not. For instance a home that has lost value in the last few years may not clear enough through the sale to allow you to make a down payment on your next home.

2. Be realistic, not greedy-
Its nice to make a huge profit, but it is also nice to make a sale in a reasonable amount of time. Don't overprice your home.  Many homeowners would like to believe their home is worth far more than it may be. However, many fail to realize what they are truly up against. Consider the competition, new construction and other updated homes. Have you kept up with your homes maintenance? When was the last time you upgraded things like appliances, furnaces, air conditioning, even fresh paint? These things will make a difference and in today's economy it is a buyers market. This means buyers have more to pick from than ever before. Your first threat is new homes. They are new, every aspect of them have been updated and curtailed to meet the demands of the current market. Your next threat is the homes in your area that are updated. Maybe their kitchen has been upgraded, or they have recently updated their bathrooms. Take stock at your competition, and follow suit. Make improvements before you place your home on the selling block. Beware, over improving for the neighborhood is counter-productive. Keep improvements within what people would expect for your price point and in your area.

3. Curb appeal-
Potential buyers see the outside of your home first. This is crucial information to have as a seller. What a potential buyer sees and their first impressions can either make or break a sale. What is your objective? Ofcourse, you want your home to say, "hey, take a second look, I'm worth it". How do you achieve this? Common sense strategies work magic in the housing market. Clean up the yard, trim the hedges back, play up the positives, repair and fix the negatives. Add flowers, fresh paint, and little touches like a new welcome mat can make a buyer get a feel for what type of a home you have. Well maintained means less expense for them. Remember to take a drive by your home, the improvements and best features need to be visable from the road. If you can't see it, a drive by buyer can't either.

4. Interior updates-
Not everyone can afford all the new upgrades that  a new home has, but you can certainly spruce up what you do have. Home staging is a crucial part of the selling process. Clean, spacious interiors are more attractive and give a buyer a real sense of the square footage they are buying. Remove clutter, and unnecessary furniture. Place as much as you can into storage and pack up personal items. Remember too, if it is older than 5-10 years old it will hurt your homes appeal. That goes for almost every part of your home, from furniture to appliances. Colors that are non neutral date a home, so if you have hard wood floors under that Hunter green carpet seriously consider unveiling it. Even if it isn't in the best shape buyers are willing have hard wood over dated carpeting. Colors that are date specific and translate into outdated decor are Hunter greens, country blues, brass metals and black lacquer. Make sure do have a friend or neighbor do a trial walkthrough of your home to point out things you may have overlooked. This includes smell, clutter, dusty areas etc. You may be immune to the smells in your home and if you have any pets, this is crucial. Thorough cleaning, steam cleaning carpets, upholstery and drapes can make a big difference. Get your Febreze ready.

5. Use the internet to your advantage-
Even if you sign on with a real estate agency, there's no harm in helping sell your home yourself. Posting links to your home on the internet is a great way to generate interest. Use updated, photos that are well lit, and show the best angles and attributes of your home. Did you know Ebay classifieds will post your ad for free? Post your home on other sites for free as well like and if  you have friends that are bloggers, send them your info and have them post it to their blog. Become active in the sale of your home.

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