March 1, 2019

The Formula for Creating a Luxury Bath

Amy Vermillion may have over 20 years of design experience, but even she knows that designing a luxury bath can be a daunting experience. Although luxury means different things to different people, the Charlotte, NC based Vermillion says that there are certain elements that need to be included in a luxury bath no matter what the definition is. Here's what Vermillion says her clients demand in their baths:

  • A great bathing experience. Residents want to be pampered, whether they're taking a bath or a shower. But everyone had different needs. Do you want a soft or brisk shower spray? Multiple showerheads, body sprays, music, or lighting? Vermillion always includes a hand shower on a slide bar for times clients just want to rinse off without washing their hair.
  • Fine fixtures. Vermillion refers to faucets as "the jewelry of the bathroom." She looks for clean lines, interesting geometry, and beautiful finishes. Nickel is one of her favorites. Vermillion recommends ROHL faucets not just because they are stylish but because they are also relatively maintenance-free.
  • A tankless water heater. This may not instantly spring to mind when you think of luxury in the bathroom, but a tankless water heater gives you unlimited hot water without a wait. Cold showers become a thing of the past. 
Posted in Did you know?
Feb. 27, 2019

How to prepare your home for a winter open house

The winter season can be a great time to sell your house, but while your competition is reduced, success during this time can still depend on a successful open house. To help make your open house as effective as possible, follow these tips.

  • Take down your decorations. The holidays are over, but if you're the type that likes to leave the decorations up for a time, taking them down before your open house is a good idea. Prospective buyers may not celebrate the same holidays as you and you don't want to alienate them.
  • Clear the clutter. If you haven't put those holiday gifts away yet, now's the time. Prospective buyers should be able to focus on your home instead of the collection of things crowding it. Give them nice open spaces to move about and they'll be appreciative.
  • Turn up the heat. Warm and cozy is more than a catchphrase during the winter. Bring the temperature up in your home slightly during your open house to keep your guests comfortable. If they are too cold in your home, they aren't apt to stay long
  • Plan for winter apparel. Be it jackets or boots, take extra steps to prepare your entryway for the added material your buyers will bring them. A designated spot to place these items can make guests feel more welcome and keep your home cleaner during the showing and beyond. 
Posted in General Advice
Feb. 25, 2019

What to Expect During the Closing Process

Congratulations, you've found a home that is ideal for you and your family. It has all of your wants and needs, and it's even in your price range. You've placed a bid and the buyer accepted it! You are finally getting ready to sign your name on the dotted line and buy your home. You're not quite done yet, there is another step that you have to go through - the closing process. 

Here are some things you should know before going into your closing. 

  1. Read everything
    • Ask your lender and attorney for the document prior to the closing. It's important to have the documents beforehand so you can make sure everything is correct. Not reading your documents before the closing can hurt you because there may be a typo or two, which can set back the entire process. Double and triple check everything. Review your loan and mortgage documents and get everything in order. 
  2. Bring a check
    • Your documents will show how much you owe. Bring your checkbook. You should also bring a form of identification.
  3. Walk-through
    • The contract should allow you to walk through the property twenty-four hours before the closing. Bring your documents with you so you can reference them to make sure that the home is in the condition stipulated in the contract. 
  4. Ownership
    • The whole point of closing is to transfer ownership from the buyer to the seller. Before closing, a title company will come in and make sure the deed, taxes, and other items that may affect the property are in good standing. Once that is squared away and the buyer and the lender approve of everything, you can both sign the closing documents, ultimately making you the owner of the home. 

 

Closing can bring unexpected events, but if you are prepared and stay positive, things can run smoothly. This is an exciting time, so after everything is settled, take your new keys and enjoy your home!

Posted in General Advice
Feb. 22, 2019

Dodge the 7 Most Common DIY Mistakes

Armed with a library of how-to books, you're confident that you can tackle your home's repairs and remodeling yourself - and pocket the money you'd have spent on professional labor. Hold up. 

David Dorman of CENTURY 21 Professional Group in Orlando, Florida says many DIYers make critical mistakes that can decrease their home's salability.

Avoid these seven common mistakes:

  1. Overestimating your skills: “Some people are handy, and some think they’re handy,” Dorman says. Be honest about your abilities. “Buyers can tell when things aren’t in the proper position, when light sockets aren’t vertical, and laminate flooring is bowed,” he says. “It comes down to the quality of work.” If you can’t do it right, you’ll have to pay to have it fixed.
  2. Underestimating the value of your time: You may, in theory, be capable of laying new bathroom tile. But between your job demands and the kids’ soccer games, can you really finish the project in a few weeks, or will it stretch over months? Your time may be worth the cost of a pro.
  3. Equating dollars spent with value: Good design is critical, especially in kitchen and bath remodels. A $60K kitchen designed by a pro to mesh well with a house will bring a better return than a $60K kitchen that bungles traffic flow and clashes with the style of adjoining areas. “When you’re going down to the studs, get an architect or interior designer involved,” Dorman advises.
  4. Neglecting details: “The biggest complaints I hear when I’m showing a remodel come when homeowners have left things half done,” Dorman says. “It doesn’t just fail to add value, it actually subtracts value.”
  5. Overlooking permits: Dorman had a seller who fixed her own septic system. When the home inspection revealed that she didn’t have the proper permits, the deal was ruined. A qualified pro will know what is legally required.
  6. Missing guarantees: Pros will back their work. That can be essential on big projects like roof repairs. When you DIY, you’re the only one accountable for missteps.
  7. Thinking DIY means do it all yourself: Consider hiring professionals to back up your know-how. Tap into the free kitchen and bath design services at home-improvement stores. Many paint stores have color consultants you can use for a small fee. Or hire a plumber on an hourly basis to install new toilets and sinks after you’ve done the demo work— you’ll rest easier knowing the water will flow safely.

Ultimately, the key to success with any project is asking the right questions. Your real estate agent is a great resource. "I have a list of vendors a mile long," Dorman says. "They don't get on this list unless I trust them."

Posted in General Advice
Feb. 20, 2019

5 Home Projects to Complete in 10 Minutes or Less

You probably have a laundry list of projects you've been meaning to complete around your home. Luckily, there are tips to help you complete some of these tasks in ten minutes or less. Your home can feel more organized (almost) instantly.

Organize your kitchen pantry

Start by sorting out expired items. Now organize your shelves by function. Separate snacks, baking necessities, spices, and more. Take inspiration from your favorite grocery stores. This ten-minute task can save you time when you're cooking from favorite recipes or making a quick midnight snack. As an added bonus, it reduces the chance of adding salt instead of sugar or vice versa. 

Make natural cleaning products

Skip the store. Mae your own cleaning products using things you probably already have on hand. You can save money, have a clean home, and be more environmentally friendly. Get started by making natural cleaning solutions.

Organize your closet

Set a timer and organize your closet for ten minutes. We recommend organizing by color, type, or function. For example, hang all shirts, jackets, sweaters, skirts, pants, and dresses with each other. You will probably end up saving time in the long run because it will be easier to find what you're looking for. 

Peeling wallpaper

Put a drop of wallpaper paste on a sheet of paper, rub the paper on the underside of the exposed wall, then press the peeling wallpaper against the glue. Smooth any bubbles out with a clean cloth and the wall can look as good as new!

Sliding glass doors and windows

If your glass fixtures are not sliding as smoothly as they should, spray a cloth with silicone lubricant and wipe it along the tracks. It'll make it easier to get some fresh air.

 

Get off your computer, turn off the TV, and get started!

Posted in Just for Fun
Feb. 18, 2019

6 Essentials for an In-Home Movie Theater

While winter weather can make going outside seem less than inviting, you can entertain your family indoors with your favorite movies and shows in a home theater. With a little help, your theater setup might make the cold a little more bearable. Here are six must-haves for your home theater. Theater Seating

Theater Seating

Comfortable leather recliners with cushy armrests are a staple of any home theater. The amount of seats is reliant on the size of your space; viewers shouldn't feel too cramped. Also, the distance you place them from your screen depends on the screen's size. Any easy way to determine seat distance is to take the horizontal length of your screen and multiply it by two to get the minimum distance. Multiply it by five to get the maximum distance. For example, a 60-inch would have a minimum distance of 120 inches, or ten feet, and a maximum distance of 300 inches, or 25 feet.

Video Projector 

Installing a quality video projector can ensure that you and your viewers enjoy the best picture possible. Pay attention to the projector's throw distance, or the distance at which it should be placed away from your screen. Also, consider how far down you should hang your projector and at what angle to tilt it. Most projectors have vertical lens shifts, which allows you to adjust the protection regardless of how you mount your projector. for those that don't, hang your projector with an extension pipe so that you can adjust the hanging distance to perfect the projected image. 

Projector Screen and Lighting 

For screen placement, pick a wall where light does not fall on it directly. You can even paint your walls a dark color to avoid glare. Mount the screen on your wall so the bottom is between two or three feet off the ground. This helps every seat in your theater achieve the perfect view. Try adding dimmable overhead lights to add an authentic cinema feeling. 

Surround Sound

The most common speaker system for home theaters is 5.1 surround sound. This six-speaker system is comprised of five full-range speakers and one low-range speaker known as the woofer. The ideal setup for 5.1 surround sound is three speakers and the woofer toward the front of the room, with the remaining two on either side of the back end of the room. Place each speaker at least 20 inches from the wall. If six speakers seem excessive, try a simple three-speaker setup with a speaker in front of your screen and two others to the left and right. 

Sound Paneling and Acoustics

Rectangular windowless rooms generally have better acoustics than square ones, but you might not be able to remodel just for your home theater. Sound absorption panels to prevent echoes, although standard drywall paneling is usually adequate acoustic material for home theaters. Installing carpeting may also improve the acoustics of your in-home theater and add a level of comfort for viewers. 

Mini Fridge 

Keep a small refrigerator in your home theater and stock it with refreshments that are easily accessible. After all, you won't have to stand in line and worry about missing your movie when you're home! You may also want to stock old movie favorites like popcorn and candy in a non-refrigerated unit in the theater. Just don't eat too loudly during the movie.

With these home theater features, being snowed in this winter might not seem so bad!

Posted in Just for Fun
Feb. 15, 2019

7 Creative Dining Room Updates

With so many dining rooms being converted into part of the living room or kitchen these days, dining room design has kind of fallen by the wayside. But if you're one of the lucky homeowners to have hung on to a formal dining space, you've got an opportunity to make some amazing modern updates. Here are 7 affordable ways to breathe new life into an old dining room:

#1 Perk things up with paint.

Are your dining room walls still the same color they were when you moved into your house 10 years ago? If so, there's a good chance the color's a little past its prime. In fact, it may also be doing an injustice to your furniture and the updates you've made in adjoining rooms as well. Refresh the walls with a paint shade that makes you feel comfortable and cozy. The room will reflect that feeling. 

#2 Modernizing the lighting. 

Are outdated chandeliers and lamps gatherings dust in your dining? Consider sending them packing and installing some recessed lighting and pendants in their place. Pendant lights, in particular, come in a wide variety of styles and colors sure to add some new pizzazz to your space. 

#3 Repurpose another room.

If your dining room is located in an undesirable space - a cramped corner of the house away from the kitchen, for example - pick a new place for your table and chairs. Put them in the kitchen, if you have space. Or, place the dining table somewhere right in your living room, where there's easy access to the TV and stereo. You should always feel comfortable during a meal, and being confined to an area you don't enjoy doesn't contribute to that feeling. 

#4 Add some visual appeal.

Visual appeal doesn't stop at paint and lighting. It's also important to consider how wall decor may increase the interest and comfort of the room. Blank walls may make it easy to zone out and focus on your meals, but your guests will surely enjoy looking at something a little more interesting. Depending on your budget and the size of your dining room, consider hanging potted plants and colorful pieces of art. Just be sure to balance wall decor with other elements in the room so your space doesn't feel like it's cluttered with stuff.

#5 Throw in a rug. 

One of the worst sounds to hear is a chair scratching against the floor as you got to get up from the dining table. So fix the issue. Add a rug underneath the table and chairs to make things soft and cozy. Choose a rug that isn't too thick with fibers. Otherwise, your chairs can get stuck and twisted. Of course, you'll also want to make sure that the style and color of your rug complement the rest of the room. 

#6 Use dividers.

Many newer homes combine kitchen and dining spaces. If you want to create a dedicated dining space, think about incorporating a room divider. It's much cheaper than installing a wall - and you can add shelves, plants, or a sliding door to further divide the two spaces. Plus, the flexibility of the dividers allows reverting back to the bigger space anytime you like. 

# Build in.

How's your dining room designed? Do you have a table that sits in the middle with four chairs around it? If you want to make the room more functional - and create more storage in the process - think about ditching the clunky furniture and opting instead for built-ins like bench seating, china cabinets, and buffets. A professional can create custom built-ins to suit any style. 

 

Posted in General Advice
Feb. 13, 2019

Home Buyer Checklist: What To Look For In An Open House

Open houses may be staged to look like a home decor dream, but don't let that distract you from the real reason you're there: to potentially buy a home. Make sure you can look past the neatly arranged furniture and focus solely on whether the house would be a good fit for you and your family. To help, here's a home buyer's checklist of things you might have missed at first glance. 

Windows

Look specifically if they are facing the right direction to let sunlight in, and whether they open to a nice view (versus directly toward another neighbor's window).

Under the Sink Cabinets

Check for possible signs of water damage due to leaky plumbing.

Electrical Outlets

Make sure there are enough outlets for the appliances and other electronics you'll be using. If not, you can decide if that's a renovation you'd like to make. 

Storage Space

Don't just look to see if there's enough closet space, but look for closet placement. Also, check that the storage is in a convenient location. 

Appliances

If they're included in the house, make sure they're in good condition. They should be on and working while you're there. 

Under the Rugs

Lift up any rugs to check the condition of the floor underneath.

Floor Level

Check to see if the floors are level. Place a marble or another small, round object on the floor and see if it rolls consistently in one direction.

Attic

If the house has one, make sure it's well insulated. 

Water Spouts

Runoff from the gutters should be pointed away from the house, so take a step outside to see if this is the case.

Posted in General Advice
Feb. 11, 2019

How To Up Your Winter Curb Appeal

Regardless of the season, your home should make a good first impression on potential home buyers. Here are some helpful tips for boosting your home's curb appeal during the winter months

Light It Up

With less sunshine and shorter days, adding outdoor lighting to your home will help illuminate it and could make it more inviting to buyers. Lighting the pathway to your front door and highlighting any features unique to your home may increase your home's curb appeal. 

Plan For Snow

Depending on where you live, you may get some (or quite a bit) of snow during winter. Your home's aesthetic could benefit from having a neatly cleared driveway and walkway. It may also be helpful to avoid piling up shoveled snow into unsightly mounds while clearing it. Try using salt to melt snow and checking weather forecasts to prepare for heavy snowfall. 

Add Winter Plants

Don't let winter weather mean the end of your garden. Adding evergreen or winter-blooming plants can inject color into the white and gray winter landscape and make your home stand out. Flowers such as witch hazel, winter jasmine, and pansies can thrive and add color all winter. 

Eliminate The Ice

Ice can be a problem in terms of both safety and curb appeal. Icy grounds can be a slipping hazard and hanging icicles can detach at any moment. Moreover, sharp and dangerous looking icicles attached to your home's roof and gutters don't make your home seem inviting to home buyers. Be sure to salt your walkways and safely clear ominous looking icicles. 

Update Your Door

A front door that appears to be in need of a fresh coat of paint or refurbishing can deter home buyers. Your front door should be in pristine condition, and in the winter months, it could benefit from a splash of vibrant color to juxtapose the sparsely colored winter season. 

 

Don't let winter freeze up your home's curb appeal. Follow these helpful tips and you may make your home as appealing now as it is the rest of the year.

Posted in General Advice
Feb. 8, 2019

Deals and Steals

Money, money, money! It's time to start taking control of yours. We sat down with Farnoosh Torabi, host of the popular financial podcast So Money, to find out how to save cash and get the best bang for your buck. Turns out good deals don't only happen on Black Friday

 

FINDING DEALS

Who doesn't like to save money? There are many ways to find bargains on food, drinks, clothes, and more. Start by reaching out people you know. "Ask friends and family and post on Facebook when you need something. You never know who has what you need," says Torabi. Looking for some interesting sources? Look no further: 

HappyHourFinder: Download this free app and explore cheap drink deals closest to you! Groupon: Sign up to get connected with local merchants and get deals on activities, travel, goods, and more. You can save up to $100 a week on what you do every day! Gilt City: Get the inside scoop on deals for entertainment, dining, and activities around the country. RetailMeNot: "For clothing discounts, I like using the app RetailMeNot. Using your phone's GPS, it sometimes detects the store you're in and will send you a push notification if there is a special discount or coupon code you can use," says Torabi. GoodShop.com: This automatic coupon finder can help you save time, money and effort when shopping online. Coupons.com: Start clipping free grocery coupons and discounts online. Craigslist Freebies: "I'm gonna pop some tags," only got $0 in my pocket. That's right - Craigslist users give out stuff they no longer want! Freecycle.org: You can give and get free stuff in your local community.

It's important to keep in mind that you shouldn't be so quick to buy things you don't need. Finding deals and saving money involves getting organized. Figure out what you really need, and then you can move on to your wants.

 

CUTTING BACK

Cutting back on costs doesn't mean you have to deprive yourself. You can do many things to cut back on your spending. If you're fresh out of college and starting a new job, it may be smart to skip the cold brew run before work. You can make it as home, and odds are your new office has a decent coffee machine. Torabi also recommends, "Thinking twice before signing up for all of those monthly memberships from Netflix to box-of-the-month clubs. Those recurring charges may seem small at first but can add up quickly." In addition, you can hold off on that gym membership and go for a run instead. It's important to become conscious of the "extras" in your life and then determine how to reduce your spending once you identify them. Torabi also suggests, "Filling up your day with free or healthier activities than shopping. Go for a walk with a friend when you get the impulse to shop after a bad day."

 

HACKS AND APPS

Looking for more ways to save? Many online platforms can help you get in the habit of keeping an eye on your expenses. Consider a few of these:

Mint: Put your financial life all in one place. Mint allows you to create budgets, track investments and discover new ways to save. You can even get a free credit check. Torabi confirms, "I love Mint so much that I joined the team last year. You can organize your expenses and income in one place so you can see your financial snapshot on the go." Digit: You can save money without even thinking about it! All you have to do is connect your checking account, and Digit takes care of it from there. Every few days Digit looks at your income and spending habits and finds money to set aside in a savings account for you. The best part: you can access it anytime. Acorns: Investing isn't just from your parents. You can do it, too! Acorns automatically invests the spare change from your debit and credit card purchases. For example, if a meal were $8.65, it would take out 35 cents. Since the money is invested, you could even make a few extra bucks

Torabi's parting words of wisdom are paramount: "Apps are great and can keep you informed. It's up to you to follow through with the information and make smart choices." After all, this is your life, and the monetary decision you make is yours. Saving money and looking for good deals isn't all that difficult. You can do it!

 

KEYS TO DEALS AND STEALS

Organization is everything - be smart and plan your spending

Apps are your friends - find one that works best for your financial needs

Look for coupon codes before you buy

Posted in General Advice