Updated: Sunday, April 23, 2017

Family Friendly Kitchen Ideas

It can be easy to get carried away in the kitchen. And were not talking about cooking.

This area is typically the most used, most coveted, and most expensive part of the house to deck out. And if you have kids, extra measures might need to be taken in order to create a kitchen that is family friendly and still as sexy as you want it to be.

Whether youre just building a home, renovating your existing kitchen, or want to come up with a few easy tricks for making it more functional, weve got some tips.

This chic kitchen proves easy care can also be easy on the eyes. "In this Carpinteria, California, kitchen, Verner Panton childrens chairs add a dash of color. The Tulip chairs and side table are Eero Saarinen designs," said Architectural Digest.

Notice how the surfaces- both those that are built in and the ones on the furniture - can be wiped clean without much effort.

There may be no more difficult decision youll make in your kitchen than what surface to dress it up with. The most on-trend countertop surface today is quartz, which is great for families since it is practically indestructible. It also looks chic on this oversized island that offers plenty of work and play area.

Another advantage of this kitchen for families is the placement of the microwave, which gives small kids easy access.

Keeping countertops at one height instead of adding a higher breakfast bar keeps the floorplan more open and helps to protect young kids from falling from high distances. This kitchens task lighting helps illuminate the workspace, and the two built-in drawers give kids a convenient place to stash their gear.


Open sightlines to the outside allow the cook to keep an eye on the kids while theyre out playing. This kitchen also features separate beverage refrigerators - a great tip for those who want to keep kids and adult beverage easily accessible.

Architectural Digest

If you have young children, youre bound to have stacks of sippy cups and plastic silverware, plus enough art supplies to fill several shelves at Michaels. Thinking smart about storage can help keep the mess at bay. A low drawer or two designated as the kids space for all things plastic will help them know where to go when looking for a drink, and may also encourage them to help set the table for dinner and help you cook.

"The design of your kitchen has a big impact on how easy cooking with children can be," said Case Remodeling. "If youre doing a kitchen renovation, ensure that the design allows the children to see you cook when theyre at the table or elsewhere in the room. They will learn by watching and it will spark their enthusiasm."

This smart solution for organizing art supplies adds a useful drawer to a bench in the nook, which keeps paint and crayons in one place instead of scattered throughout the house.


We always wanted a desk in our kitchenmdash;a place where we could line up cookbooks and that could serve as a homework station. But, the sad truth is, unless you have a massive space for a massive desktop, itll probably end up looking like ours: covered in bills and school papers and never used for homework or any other function besides being a paper trap.

This is why creating a breakfast nook is so ideal. Having a separate but nearby space for kids to study, do homework, craft, or play games allows you to keep your eye on them while working in the kitchen and helps build family closeness.


Just because you have a smaller space doesnt mean you should sacrifice function. Dont have room for an island and a breakfast nook? Combine the two

Architectural Digest

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Making Your Home More Energy-Efficient

Your home is your place to rest, play, and spend time with your family. It should be a place of comfort, and this comfort need not come at a high cost. Many homes, however, waste a lot of energy in ways that can be prevented. Here are five ways to make your home more energy-efficient.

Replace or Weatherize All Windows

Windows are one of the biggest sources of heat gain and heat loss in a home. Both heat gain and heat loss rob you of comfort and keep your energy bills higher than they have to be, whether during the summer or winter months.

Windows rank high on the list because of air leakage around the frame and the heat that transfers through windowpanes. Old single-pane windows provide little protection against heat transference. If you replace these windows with energy-efficient windows you should see immediate savings and improved climate control in your home.

When choosing windows, consider the frame and not just glass. Frame material and frame design matters. Hinged windows allow less air leakage than sliding, single-hung or double-hung do. Avoid metal because these conduct heat. Choose insulated vinyl frames or insulated fiberglass frames for the most efficiency and durability.

Pay attention to glass efficiency ratings such as the U-factor and the solar heat gain coefficient. The right windows to choose depend largely upon regional climate. If you live in an area with hot summers and mild winters, you want glass that blocks out as much solar heat gain as possible.

Low-emissivity coatings on windowpanes reduce heat conduction through the glass, which benefits you by keeping hot air inside in winter and hot air outside in summer. There are other coatings and tints available, but you should still look for the Energy Star label. Only products that have met strict requirements by the EPA qualify for this special certification.

Seal the Homes Thermal Envelope

Air leakage through your homes exterior is another source of energy waste. Air infiltration makes your heating and cooling system work harder to maintain climate control. In order to find all of the hidden leaks, schedule an energy audit with an HVAC company. Until you do, seal the noticeable leaks. These can usually be found in the following areas:

  • Around window frames and doors
  • Beneath baseboards
  • Around flues and chimneys

When sealing leaks in most areas, you can use caulk, weather-stripping or expandable spray foam insulation. Another method to control air leaks is to replace poorly fitting doors or other features and to use hardware with a type that creates a better seal. One example is barn door hardware. This kind of hardware can create a better air seal in some cases because the door slides into place instead of swinging open. This creates fewer opportunities for gaps between the door and the frame.

Upgrade Your Home HVAC System

If your homes HVAC system is older than ten years, consider replacing it with a new energy-efficient system that is Energy Star certified. Improvements in design make these systems far more energy-efficient than any in the past. If they are sized correctly and installed correctly, you should see lower bills and improved comfort and improved air quality.

Upgrade Insulation

Most homes have only the minimum required insulation. Older homes might even fall far short of the minimum simply because the insulation has become too wet, or it has become compressed or it has shifted.

Adding insulation to the attic will have the largest effects. It doesnt matter which kind of insulation you use as much as it matters that it is properly installed, with no gaps, and that you use the recommended quantity for your region.

Adding insulation to exterior walls doesnt have to be a big remodeling project. Much of the time, it can be blown into walls by a contractor.

Use a Programmable Thermostat

These thermostats make a home more energy efficient in the following ways:

  • You wont have to remember to set the temperature lower or higher before you run out of the house each the morning, because you can program the thermostat to do it for you each day.
  • You can program different energy-saving temperature settings for special occasions, such as vacations, and you can still come home to a comfortable house.
  • Some new thermostats even allow you to check them remotely, sparing you from worrying about whether the home is getting too hot or cold while you are away.

By implementing these ideas, you have little to lose and a lot to gain in terms of comfort and savings. If it feels overwhelming or it is hard on your budget to make all of these changes at once, try to do them in steps. Each time you take even one step towards more energy efficiency, you will start saving money on energy bills.
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Paying For College? Why Your House Can Be A Windfall

Some of us are deep in the land of college tours and scholarship research and trying to learn all we can about how to get our kids into their preferred school, and pay for it without having to pack up and live with them in their dorm. And, by "some of us", I mean Yours Truly. And by "deep in," I mean sinking into a world of confusion and despair and conflicting information and Google searches like, "How much can I get for my plasma?" The bottom line is sobering but so is the massive information dump. If you can remember what it was like to learn a language from scratch, you kinda get it, but only if that language consistently contradicted itself and caused even more waves of confusion. So, a lot like English, then.

But, lost in all the fun, new terminology and layers of requirements and so many dates for scores and applications and deposits that you need to expand your iPhone calendar entry space is a bit of great news for homeowners and homebuyers who are staring down the reality of paying for college for their dependent child.

Rising costs

First, a reality check. Think you know how much it actually costs to go to college? "Unfortunately, for many parents, its simply not possible to fund a degree from their savings or income - not with the total annual cost of college hitting roughly 23,000 for the average four-year public school and about 46,000 for private schools, according to The College Board," said mortgage site HSH.com. In case you missed it, thats PER YEAR. PER CHILD.

Ouch. Especially if youre nearing retirement age. There goes that beach house. But, the good news for homeowners is twofold, and its the first one that came as a surprise:

1 Nothing about your house - not the mortgage, the value, how much you owe, or how much equity you have - matters when it comes to getting financial aid for most public schools. You can owe 1 on a home worth 2 million and it wont matter or even be known to those who are deciding whether your child receives financial aid. Presumably, if you owe 1 on a 2 million home, you wont need financial aid, but thats another story.

2 If you do have equity in your home, congratulations. You may have a built-in solution to pay for those >

Lets talk financial aid

The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and you will come to love/hate this document that will be used to determine how much you receive to offset the cost of college. "The purpose of the FAFSA is to calculate your expected family contribution, or EFC - the amount the government believes your family can contribute for college that year," said Bankrate.

The FAFSA will ask you for your drivers license and social security numbers, your most recent tax returns, and information on bank accounts and investments, including any stocks you might have. But what it wont ask you for is information about your house. This is great because it protects what is, for most, their single largest investment and also "boosts their aid eligibility by knowing which assets the government doesnt take into account," said Bankrate.

Some financial planners also focus on the family home as a smart investment tool when it comes to paying for college by encouraging them to pay down the mortgage and "transfer assets from assessable accounts to sheltered ones."

Keep in mind, though, that different rules may play for private universities. "Generally speaking, private colleges look at the equity you have in your home as a resource to pay for college," said Money Crashers. "Public schools, however, typically do not."


Tapping home equity to pay for college

Has your home appreciated since you purchased? Many homeowners who need to find additional funds for college are using their home equity and taking advantage of low interest rates instead of looking to other types of loans.

"In a climate of lower housing interest rates, a home loan might seem like an attractive option for some parents to help shoulder the cost of paying fornbsp;college," said US News. "Since the downturn of 08 and 09, the lending environment has improved enough that some of the rates on home loans are more competitive over a Plus loan," Trish Gildea, senior financial planner at Summit Financial Corp. in Burlington, Massachusetts, told them.

In fact, Bankrate currently shows a home equity interest rate of 5.21 and a 30K home equity line of credit HELOC at 5.38. The current rate on a Parent PLUS Loan "a federal student loan available to the parents of dependent undergraduate students," isnbsp;6.31," according to Edvisors, plus there is an origination fee thats over 4. You may also have an easier time qualifying for credit tied to the equity in your home as long as you have been making payments on time and have a low enough loan-to-value ratio; "Eligibility for a Parent PLUS Loan does not depend on the borrowers credit scores or debt-to-income ratios. The borrower of a Parent PLUS Loan must not have annbsp;adverse credit history.

Dipping into home equity may also have specific advantages if your child is planning to attend a private college. "Taking out a mortgage or tapping a home equity line of credit willnbsp;reducenbsp;the amount of equity you have in your home," said Money Crashers. "Since private schools view home equity as an option to pay for tuition, utilizing this strategy can increase your chances of receiving financial aid if your child is attending a private college. You could use the money you pull out of your home to pay down high interest consumer debt -- but pay close attention to the interest rate. It probably wouldnt make sense to take on a home equity loan at 8 to pay off debt at 5. But if money is cheap, pulling it out of your house to pay off other debts can help you qualify for financial aid at a private institution."

Preferred loans

US News notes that, "On average, parents borrowed 7,406 through a home loan -- an umb>

Wondering which of those loans is best for you? It depends on your unique set of circumstances, but, because of the flexibility, "Wealth advisors say a HELOC is the most common choice for parents choosing a home loan to pay for school," they said. "A borrower can limit the amount to just whats needed under a HELOC compared with a home equity loan, which requires taking out a lump sum. The minimum amount for a home equity loan can range between 10,000 and 25,000 at lending institutions."

In addition to all the other factors, youll want to keep the "when" in mind if youre considering a HELOC. "Experts say timing is important when it comes to a HELOC andnbsp;filling out the FAFSA," said US News. Thats because, "If the proceeds of a home equity or HELOC is in your bank account on the date you file the FAFSA," youll have to count it as an asset, which can reduce the amount of aid received.

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Ask the HOA Expert: Contacting A Director On The Board

Question: I am having trouble contacting the individual directors on the board of directors. The HOA president says there are "privacy issues" to giving out phone numbers or email addresses. Ive asked our property manager and I get the same response. I thought that as a homeowner I have a right to directly contact my board members.

Answer: All members, even board members, have the right to privacy. Your board has hired a management company to handle business. The manager, in turn, contacts the board as needed when business matters exceed the managers authority. I suggest you contact the manager with your request. Either he will be able to help you or will ask the board president or board for direction. This is a reasonable process to protect board member privacy.

Question: Does an Architectural Review Committee ARC have the right to ignore published regulations >Answer: If the ARC has a procedure to follow and it has not been followed, you have the right to appeal the matter to the board of directors. The requirement for neighbor input was put there for a reason and should be honored as long as it exists.

Question: Can owners and board members be prohibited from conferring with the HOAs lawyer by the board president who is the appointed liaison?

Answer: Since conferring with an attorney probably triggers cost to the HOA, the board should have a strict policy concerning how and when it is done and who has authority to do so. This policy should be communicated to the attorney in writing so he knows who he authorized to deal with.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to www.Regenesis.net
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To Avoid Contract Disputes, Itemize Items That Convey

Question. We have signed a contract to buy a house. When we first saw it, before signing the agreement, there were two refrigerators. One was in the kitchen and one was in the basement. The real estate agent told us that both refrigerators would stay with the property. Settlement is scheduled for next week, and we have now been told that the basement refrigerator has been removed. Our mortgage lender, however, insists on our signing a statement that the refrigerator remains as part of the house, and as part of the lenders security.

I do not understand when a refrigerator is a fixture and when it is not.

Answer: Your question has stumped a lot of people, including several law professors to whom this question was posed.

There is no easy answer as to what is a fixture. An item, standing by itself, may not be a fixture, but when made part of the property, it can change its characteristics. For example, a kitchen sink in a plumbers shop window is personal property. Once it has been installed in your house, however, it becomes a fixture and is part of the real estate.

Generally speaking, and in the absence of a contractual agreement to the contrary, fixtures remain with the house. Personal items can be removed by the seller.

As you can see, it certainly makes a difference if an item is characterized "personal property" or "fixtures." For example, can a seller take a removable wet bar from the basement, even though the plumbing is hooked up? Does a window air conditioning unit convey with the property?

There are no easy answers to any of these questions. The courts have applied a number of tests, including:

  • The manner in which the article is attached to the real estate. If the article can be removed without substantial injury to the building, it is generally held to be personal property.

  • The character of the article and its adaptation to the real estate. If, for example, an article was fitted or constructed specially for a particular location or use in a house, one can argue the article becomes a permanent part of the building, and thus a fixture.

    For example, the courts have held these items to be fixtures: pews in a church, screens and storm windows specially fitted to a house and electronic computing equipment installed on a floor specially constructed for it.

  • The intention of the parties. What would the average person consider the article to be? Gas stoves, for example, are intended to remain in a house permanently, and thus are fixtures. The so-called "Murphy beds" fastened to the wall on pivots are considered fixtures. But roll-away beds that are not fastened to the wall are not fixtures except in Wisconsin.

    Going through this fascinating history of fixtures, one important caveat comes to mind.

    When in doubt, spell it out in the contract. Furthermore, if the seller or the real estate agent verbally advise you that a particular item will convey, again spell it out in the real estate contract. If you want the refrigerator to convey with the property, put it in the contract to avoid any confrontation in the future.

    Too many homebuyers are often disappointed because they >In your case, I would argue that the second refrigerator stays with the property. This is based not necessarily on the fact that it is a fixture, but on the promises made by the sellers agent -- and on which you >Custom in the area is also important. I understand that in the Western part of the country, refrigerators do not necessarily convey; however, they do in the Eastern states. But dont
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    Build A Deck For Backyard Appeal

    Outdoor appeal is a key piece to the home selling process. What better way to increase the exterior appeal than having a beautiful deck? Decks are living, natural additions that effectively blend into the landscape while adding extra entertaining space for less money than a porch or addition.

    Need more convincing? Here are some of the key advantages to why decks seal backyard appeal and convince sellers to look at your home longer than others on the block:

    How much you save: The cost to build a deck might average 6,600 to 9,400 depending on square footage and materials. However, a deck costs far less than an addition - almost 50,000 - so why invest more when you can get something just as beautiful for less?

    An outdoor living area is less expensive because you dont need electrical wiring or plumbing. Plus you can recoup at least 85 of that investment during the resale.

    How it adds to the house: Adding a deck onto your home increases the exterior appeal without all the extra work. It means extra room for entertaining, >

    It can adapt to any kind of landscape, whether you need a raised platform deck for a sloping hill and multi-story home or a short deck for a flat backyard.

    How it blends with the landscape: Unlike a porch, a deck is natural. Made of wood or plastic to look like wood, decks blend into the landscape seamlessly. Its simple to add bushes, trees and flowers around the edge of the deck. By the end of the whole process, your deck will have a warm, homey feel in the yard.

    Photo courtesy of Destiny Painting Services in Dallas, TX

    How easy it is to maintain: Depending on the type of material you use to build the deck, maintenance should be simple. One treatment of staining and regular cleaning should take care of any pests or dirt. Decks can handle most weather conditions, and you can even build an awning to help it endure the climate better. Just keep an eye out for termites, mold or other things eating away at the wood and treat them quickly.

    Photo courtesy of Proactive Painting in Eagle, WI.

    So dont wait Add this beautiful, natural addition to your home and get those sellers flocking to your backyard.

    Photo courtesy of Artisan Custom Cabinetry in Oswego, IL
    Andrea Davis is the editor for HomeAdvisor, which helps homeowners find home improvement professionals in their area at no charge to ensure the best service in the shortest amount of time.

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    What You Can Do At Home To Help Stop Climate Change

    Canadas National Research Council recently launched a new initiative to address the impact of climate change.

    The agency is upgrading building codes, specifications, guidelines and assessment tools. It plans to >The 40 million project has the "potential to have a profound impact on the Canadian construction industry and on the future of buildings in Canada," says Doug Crawford, chair of the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes.

    "With climate change, the total annual precipitation is increasing, as well as the frequency and severity of extreme events, such as heat waves, high winds, floods and droughts, all of which is resulting in increased stress on built structures," says Richard Tremblay, general manager of construction at the National Research Council of Canada.

    Environment and Climate Change Canada says Canadas temperature is rising more quickly than the global average, resulting in changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme events.

    There are hotter summer nights and a risk of more flooding and forest fires.

    Every dollar spent on adapting infrastructure today will result in 9 to 38 in avoided damages in the future, says the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Every dollar spent on energy-efficient programs for buildings generates between 4 and 8 of GDP in the country, Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, recently told a forum in Ottawa.

    "It is clear the impacts of climate change are real and they are framing the problems of the 21st century," she said. "Canadians want more energy-efficient buildings. And there is a lot we can do on this front. We can update codes for new buildings to make them more energy efficient. We can also retrofit our homes and buildings, which saves Canadians money on their heating bills. Construction is a multi-billion dollar industry in Canada. When we make our infrastructure more energy efficient, we also create more jobs."

    There are also lots of things that you can do at home to help slow climate change.

    Insulate your home and install energy-efficient doors and windows. Seal cracks to keep in the warmth. Try lowering the temperature on your water heater to between 55 C and 60 C and insulating your pipes.

    Save electricity by using energy-efficient lighting. Turn off computers and electronics when they are not being used.

    Fix any leaky faucets in the home and consider installing low-flush toilets and low-flow showerheads. You wont notice any difference but they can save a lot of water.

    Clean your ventilation system, which will cut down on energy use as well as improving air quality and comfort. Each year, clean the filters on your furnace and your heat recovery ventilator if you have one.

    Use cold water to wash your clothes and consider hanging them outside or on a drying rack instead of using the dryer.

    When replacing your appliances, look for the models that have the best energy efficiency. All appliances are now clearly marked with energy efficiency ratings. Energy Star appliances use at least 20 per cent less energy than standard models, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada.

    The ministry also suggests that you contact your local utility to see if it offers "green power" alternatives, such as wind, water, coal or solar solutions. You may be able to switch to a company that offers power from renewable resources.

    In spring when its time to start your garden, use plants that require minimum watering. Plant trees.

    The David Suzuki Foundation www.davidsuzuki.org says that garbage buried in landfill sites produces methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas. "Keep stuff out of landfills by composting kitchen scraps and garden trimmings and recycling paper, plastic, metal and glass. Let store managers and manufacturers know you want products with minimal or recyclable packaging."

    Since 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions come from meat and dairy production, you can also help by changing your eating habits to include at least one meat-free meal a day, it says.

    Transportation accounts for 25 per cent of emissions, so leaving the car at home and using public transit or walking, cycling or carpooling will also make a difference. Air travel leaves behind a huge carbon footprint, says the foundation. Avoid flying when possible.

    The foundation also takes a political stand, urging you to "take a few minutes to contact your political representatives and the media to tell them you want immediate action on climate change. Remind them that reducing greenhouse gas emissions will also build healthier communities, spur economic innovation and create new jobs. And next time youre at the polls, vote for politicians who support effective climate policies."
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    New Agents Should Look For Good Companies - Ethically Good Companies

    The population of California real estate licensees goes up and goes down, as does the market. Right now, we are well below the highs in 2007 when the total was more than 525,000, but we are also above the lows in 1999 when the number hovered just below 300,000. Currently, in 2017, the trend is upward. In January the most recent month for which figures are available, the licensee population was approximately 412,000. Two years ago it was 402,000.

    One would like to think -- and I do -- that most of those coming into the business do so with the intention of conducting business in an upright and professional manner. They want to be productive agents, to be sure; but they want to remain good people too.

    What advice might we give to such persons?

    Robert Solomon, one of the premier Business Ethics philosophers in the country, writes:

    "Whether we do well, whether we like ourselves, whether we lead happy productive lives, depends to a large extent on the companies we choose. As the Greeks used to say, lsquo;to live the good life one must live in a great city. To my business students today, who are all too prone to choose a job on the basis of salary and start-up bonus alone, I always say, lsquo;to live a decent life, choose the right company."

    Do you want to live a decent life, to like yourself as a real estate agent, to be as ethical in your business life as you would be in your personal life? Find a good company.

    So, how might an agent go about finding a good company, one that is good not only in the production sense but that is also good in the sense of ethics and values? Actually, in very much the same way as one might find a company that will help an agent to become productive.

    If you are starting in sales, you want to join a company that has a productive sales staff. Youll learn from being around them. Additionally, you want to look for a company that provides training and professional education.

    The same considerations apply with respect to ethics and professionalism. You want to join a firm that has good, ethically good, people. Youll be a better person for being in their company. Similarly, you want to find a company that teaches and reinforces values. This isnt so easy.

    Just about every real estate company on the planet will tell you that they have and believe in values and high ethical standards. So, you may need to dig a little deeper. Ask how they implement those values. Ask what they do to reinforce them. Ask them if they have a plan or a program to instill and support these values.

    Regrettably, many company interviewers wouldnt have the foggiest idea of what you are talking about. That wouldnt mean that they are bad people. It just suggests that the companys commitment to values may not be terribly strong.

    A broker to whom values are important needs to have a program -- a plan that is just as carefully conceived as any marketing program -- that reinforces the values of the company. Our priorities are revealed in our actions. Ask a simple question: How much in the way of time and resources does the company devote to training in the skills and methods required for productivity? Then ask: How much in the way of time and resources does the company devote to reinforcing its values and the importance of ethical behavior?

    If a company is not setting aside time for discussion and instruction on ethical issues, if it is not taking advantage of the materials that are available through the various Realtorreg; organizations, it is possible that its professed commitment to values and professionalism may not be as strong as suggested. It might not be what the new agent ought to be looking for.

    Bob Hunt is a director of the California Association of Realtorsreg;. He is the author of Real Estate the Ethical Way. His email address is .

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    10 Totally Free Tips For Getting Your Home Sold Quickly

    Staging your home is a critical step in getting it sold, but all the recommended updates and upgrades can get pricey. Thankfully, there are tricks you can use to make your home look bigger, better, and brighter, without spending a dime.

    1. Fix up your floors

    Dont want to pay to replace or refinish your floors? No prob. Grab a brown crayon to fill in divots. A one-to-one mix of olive oil and vinegar rubbed directly on scratched areas will also help make it look new. You can also use canola if you dont have olive, but then use a one-part vinegar, three-part oil mixture. Or, try this hack that uses walnuts to fix scratches. No, seriously.

    Floors look great but dont sound so hot? "Fixnbsp;creaky wood floorsnbsp;with a generous dusting of baby powder," said One Crazy House. "Work it into the cracks until the floor is no longer noisy."

    DIY Network.com

    2. Make it sparkle

    Presumably, you already have cleaning supplies, sponges, and paper towels in the house. Now all you need is some elbow grease to make your home look shiny and new.

    When selling your home, you need to take the cleaning beyond your typical weekly run-through. Think "Spring cleaning" turned up a notch or two. Remember that potential buyers will be looking everywhere, including inside drawers and cabinets. Make sure theyre crumb-free and well organized. They may also open your refrigerator. While this can seem intrusive, you dont want to give them a reason to walk away, so make sure to tidy up the inside, wipe up any spills, throw away rotten food, and put a nice big box of Baking Soda in there to absorb any leftover smells.

    3. Let the light in

    Everyone is looking for "natural light," so show off what youve got by opening up those blinds and drapes. Did you just reveal a bunch of dirty windows and sills? Ewww. Grab that cleaning spray and make them shine. An old toothbrush is a great way to get gunk out of corners and in window tracks.

    If your place isnt light and bright, even with all the blinds and drapes drawn, youll need to depend on artificial lighting. This is no time to have lightbulbs out. Go hit that stash in your laundry room cabinet and switch out for fresh bulbs.

    4. Declutter

    Home stagers will tell you there is no more important step when preparing your home for sale. "If you are serious about staging your home, allnbsp;clutter must go, end of story," said Houzz. "Its not easy, and it may even require utilizing offsite storage or a nice >

    Do a walk-through with an outsiders eye, or ask a friend or family member to help since theyll be more objective. Anything that isnt used regularly or is taking away from the open feel of the house can be packed away. Small appliances and anything else hanging out on countertops can be put in a cabinet if youre not ready to stick it in a box. You want people to see the bones of the house, not your blender.


    5. Depersonalize

    While, youre decluttering, keep personalization in mind. Buyers want to be able to picture themselves living in the home, and they might not be able to do so if they cant take their eyes off your wall of taxidermy.

    6. Create closet space

    Even if you have the worlds largest walk-in closet in the master bedroom, you can give buyers the impression that there isnt enough space by overfilling it. Stagers recommend taking half of your clothes and shoes out and packing them away to create some airiness. Does the idea of packing up your stuff freak you out? Youre going to have to do it when you move, anyway. This is just giving you a head start.

    7. Remove the stink

    Does your home greet guests with a big whiff of cat box? Potential home buyers might just turn right back around and get in the car. You also want to make sure your animals arent irritating those who are touring or impeding them from entering certain rooms. Dont want to board them? Su>

    8. Pull those weeds

    You really cant overestimate the importance of curb appeal today. Even if you dont want to spring for a few bags of mulch and some colorful flowers to frame your door, there are easy and free steps you can take to give buyers a great first impression. Dispose of any visible weeds, leaves, and other unwanted stuff hanging out in the yard. Give your bushes a trim and mow the yard. If you cant power wash your home, at least wash the outside of the exterior windows that are within eye level.

    And dont forget about the area closest to your front door. Sweep that stoop and make sure your welcome mat is actually welcoming, instead of dusty and dirty.


    9. Address your furniture

    Some of the most common problems in homes when it comes to furniture: 1 Its ugly; 2 Its old; Theres too much of it; The arrangement is uninviting. Ugly and old might be hard to overcome when youre trying not to spend money, but the rest you can do something about.

    "Sometimes when sellers are trying to make a small room seem like its more spacious, they have a tendency to push all of their furniture against the walls to leave a big open space in the middle. This type of arrangement may leave a lot of open space, but ultimately leaves the interior design looking unfinished -- a big turn off for buyers. In this situation, its better to create furniture groupings. First, envision the way the space should be used," said Freshome. "Do you have a huge flatscreen TV that requires a lot of seating? Is there a corner in your living room that would serve perfectly as a reading nook?nbsp;Group the furniture in ways that would make sense for the intended use. Then, make sure that there are clean and direct pathways through the room. You want potential buyers to be able to envision themselves living in your home and one of the quickest ways to do that is by creating a cozy seating area thats fit for conversation."

    If the problem is that youve created a crowded space by using too much furniture, ditch a few pieces in a friends garage for the time being or, even better, donate them to create an intimate seating area. You can always bring those pieces back into your new home.

    10. Borrow stuff

    If, at the end of the day, your home still isnt looking show-ready, maybe its time to raid a friends house. Have a loved one who has an extra couch thats more neutral than yours or a couple of great accessories? Its time to test their love for you.

    Full Story >

    Inside The Cult of Home Goods: Best Tips For Shopping This Fave Store

    If theres one place designers, wanna-be designers, and those who just want a great deal on something cool, chic, or practical Hey, why not all three? agree on, its Home Goods. Not to mention celebrities. People Magazine just ran an article on celebs who love the store, led by comedy maven Melissa McCarthy, who was photographed pushing a HomeGoods cart. We knew we loved her.

    The home furnishing store isnt just a place you wander in to, its a destination for millions who swear by it for inexpensive and unique furniture pieces, accessories, and other deacute;cor items for every part of the house.

    "Few stores inspire devotion in their customers like HomeGoods," said Popsugar. "Treasures aboundnbsp;in HomeGoods locations across the country, and for that reason shoppers are seriously dedicated to the brand."

    But, it can be overwhelming to navigate the store, especially if you are easily distracted by pretty things there are so many pretty things. So how do you make it out of there alive and with smart buys in your bags? Weve got tips.

    Go at the right time

    Planning to get up on Saturday morning, go to breakfast and then head to HomeGoods? Right. You and everyone else in the city. If a little thing like work is keeping you out of the store on weekdays, when its easier to see the stuff without having to peer around people and theres less of a chance of fighting over a coffee table, head over on your lunch break. Or during the dinner hour. If you have to go on a weekend, remember the first rule of weekend Costco shopping: Elbows up.

    Dont skip the pillows

    You may think you dont need another pillow, but you would be wrong. HomeGoods pillows are legendary, and when you can get a down-filled pair for 25, you just have to pick one up. Did we say one? We meant five. If you cant find something here to match - or spice up - your deacute;cor, youre not looking hard enough.


    If you love it, buy it

    There is probably no better tip for shopping at HomeGoods than this. That blue, glass-front cabinet that stopped you in your tracks? You better buy it now, or kiss it goodbye forever, because it wont be there when you come back tomorrow. HomeGoods has what it has and they typically dont get in more of the same item. Need two of those leather-topped chrome barstools? Dont leave and drive to another store. Drag one to the front and ask a salesperson to help you find a match, because when you get back, itll be gone.

    Check out the rugs

    You may not think of HomeGoods as a rug emporium, and, truth be told, theres not a ton of inventory here. But there are some amazing deals, especially on larger rugs that can take a big chunk out of your paycheck if purchased elsewhere. This huge 9x12 wall rug is just 399 and is on trend with the color scheme and pattern.


    Plan to fall in lovehellip;a lot

    We walked in and grabbed a small cart. Silly mistake. Halfway through the trip through the store, we had to go swap it out for a larger cart. Shoulda known better.

    Bring your sense of humor

    Nothing says, "The British are coming" like a giant couch draped in modified Union Flag motif. Not everything HomeGoods will appeal to everyone, which is part of what makes it cool. And, we can promise you that if wed returned to the store the next day, this couch would have been gone. You know someone walked in and died over this. To each, their own.

    Dont get caught in a theme spiral

    If you watched the popular HBO miniseries Big Little Lies, you may have spotted beachy accessories sprinkled throughout "thenbsp;>

    But keep this in mind when working with a theme: A sprinkle is good. But watch out for the downpour. HomeGoods is great at styling their vignettes and making you want to bag up the whole thing. But, take home two of everything, and it may look like the beach threw up on your living room.

    Think unique

    Theres something about this wood-and-copper chair that made us stop and stare. And stare a little more. There were several of them, and, at 99 each, theyd be great in a breakfast nook. But even one placed in a corner could be a showstopper, between the distinctive shape and the mix of materials.

    Dont forget to check the clearance art section

    HomeGoods has some great, affordable art pieces, especially if youre looking for something that is really on trend. But we love the clearance section. There are some great deals here, although you have to look carefully to make sure there arent visible boo-boos. We couldnt find anything wrong with this abstract painting. Amazing savings is right: It was only 18.

    Hit the end caps

    Thats where a lot of the other clearance deals are, like this 12.99 glass candle holder. Did we need another candle holder? Uh, no. But we couldnt resist the shape and mix of materials, not to mention the price.

    Expect the unexpected

    A splash of color. A unique touch that might bring a bit of interest to a forgotten area. Or a piece that catches your eye for no real reason other than its fun, cool, or different. It happens a lot at HomeGoods. For us, it was this:

    Truth be told, this big, blue, ceramic OK sign it makes no sense whatsoever in the space. But we fell in love with it anyway, and now it lives on the office bookcase right next to the desk. Weve named him "Bob."

    Full Story >

    Real Estate Professionals Linda and Robby Adams Pay It Forward With A Special Donation To Ocean Connectors

    Las Vegas, NV April 11, 2017 -- PinRaise, the company that connects real estate agents with local clients and nonprofits, announced today that Linda and Robby Adams, of Realty ONE Group in Carlsbad, California, recently closed a transaction and made a special donation to Ocean Connectors on behalf of their client. They are the first Realty One Group agents to make a donation in cooperation with the Realty ONE Charitable Foundation.

    "Linda and Robby Adams are part of the Agent with Heart movement, and are committed to making a difference in their community by agreeing to donate to the nonprofit of her clients choice after closing," says Mr. John Giaimo, President of PinRaise. "The Agent with Heart program is designed so everyone benefits from a new real estate transaction," Mr. Giaimo explains.

    "Real estate agents like Linda and Robby make the community a better place, and homeowners like to do business with people who care. Please join me in thanking Linda and Robby for making a donation with the Agent with Heart program," Mr. Giaimo concludes.

    About the Agent with Heart Program: Through the PinRaise app, the Agent with Heart program connects homebuyers and sellers with local agents like Linda and Robby Adams who agree to donate a percentage or fixed dollar amount of their real estate commission to the nonprofit of their clients choice after closing. This provides needed revenue for the nonprofit and makes a real difference in their community. For more information, please visit www.PinRaise.com/agents. To connect with Linda and Robby Adams, please call 760-445-8685.
    Full Story >

    How To Improve The Value Of Your Home In 5 Easy Steps

    What increases the value of one home might not increase the value of another. A resort->

  • Building a 4,000-square foot addition to your 1,200-square foot home in a neighborhood that consists of all small starter homes is not a wise home improvement. If youre looking to add some value to your home, try one of these five easy steps that almost always adds value no matter where your home is located.

    Start Outside

    Whats the first thing buyers see when they drive up to your home? Your lawn and front door, and they make more of an impression than you might imagine. If your lawn is a mess, your door needs some paint, and your house is dirty, the first thing you do is get it all cleaned up. Youre not going to spend thousands on elaborate landscaping, but you might be surprised just how much of a difference a freshly mowed lawn and some brand-new mulch in the flower beds make.

    Move it Indoors

    Paint is everything in a home. You can have your home any color you want but if you choose to sell and want to increase the value of your home, youre going to add value by adding a nice, neutral paint color to every wall. No more personal colors in bedrooms, no more accent walls, and no more old, dirty paint. Even if your paint is only a few years old, you will make a big difference in the overall value with a fresh coat.

    Upgrade the Fixtures

    Next is the fixtures. Its time for new door knobs, light fixtures, and faucets in the kitchen and bath. Cabinet and drawer pulls are also important, and every one of these very small details makes a very large difference. You can upgrade these for next to nothing while seeing a significant improvement on the value of your home.

    Fix Any Small Issues

    If you want to add value to your home, its time to fix the small issues. If you have a leaking faucet, get it fixed. If the air conditioner makes a funny noise when it runs, call the home warranty company and ask them to come out and take a look. If its broken, theyll replace it. If its fixable, you just got rid of that pesky noise and increased the overall value of your home in the eyes of buyers. Small issues are some of the biggest issues. Repair any little dings or holes in the walls, fix any broken baseboards, and repair anything thats not quite perfect. These little things add up substantially.

    Clean it Up

    Finally, its time to clean your house. Hire a professional to come in and clean every single nook and cranny. Youre not tidying up for dinner guests anymore. Youre cleaning cabinets, drawers, walls, floorboards, ground, baseboards, trim, and everything in between. You might not think a home thats clean is worth more, but youd be surprised. If your sparkling clean house is for sale for the same price as another house down the street thats almost identical but isnt spotless and has a lower asking price, people will want your home. Even if its more money, its less work for them and its cleaner.

    A house is an investment, and thats why its imperative you do what you can to increase the value of your home without spending much money. Its not always expensive upgrades and renovations that add a few extra dollars to the overall cost of your home. Sometimes its small, easily forgettable details that make the biggest difference to a buyer.

    Full Story >

    Wow Home Buyers With These 5 Front Yard Landscaping Tips

    Your front yard is the red carpet inviting buyers into the beauty that is your home. If its rugged, messy and unkempt, buyers will take one look and then keep on driving to the next property on their list. Dont let that happen by making your front yard luscious and as amazing as the inside of your home.

    What areas should you focus on in your front yard? Where do you start? To help you break down the revitalization of your front yard, here are the steps you should take:

    1. Cut the grass.

    Buyers dont want to trudge through high grass as though they were in the Amazon or on a safari in Africa. This means the lawn mower needs to be out at least once a week if not every other week, keeping it trimmed and maintained. It also needs to be green so it looks alive and lush. Water so the sun doesnt dry out the lawn and turn it yellow or brown. A professional landscaper can help maintain a balance of trimming and growth so it looks just right for buyers.

    2. Plant more shade trees.

    One or two trees in the front yard are all right, but if you want to really add some shade, plant more. Shade trees will detract from the glare of the sun, and it can help decrease the temperature of the house if theyre placed close to windows. It also will help keep the lawn green with moisture. You can plant trees that are shorter and will grow by the time the new owner buys the home, but be sure theyre strong and can handle the climate.

    3. Install outdoor lighting.

    Outdoor lighting is a good way to both illuminate the house at night and accent parts of your yard. Depending on where you install the lights, your house will look very appealing at night to those buyers who might not have time to do their shopping during the day. Outdoor lighting also helps to illuminate a path like a sidewalk to get from the curb to your front door for easier navigation. It helps to accent the beauty of your landscaping which all together increases the beauty of your home.

    4. Consider adding flowers for more color.

    If your front yard has a lot of greenery, you should increase the yard appeal by adding more colors. Flowers are a great and simple way to do this, as well as shrubbery with different blooms. Perennials are the best for this because they last for more than a year, which means less maintenance for the seller and the new homeowner. They come in a wide variety of colors and types so the yard can be decorated with any number of them while still requiring less maintenance.

    5. Keep everything clean

    In addition to keeping the lawn trimmed, everything else should be clean. Anywhere that can build up dirt or grime - siding, porch, front door, driveway - should be cleaned on a regular basis. Buyers dont want to see a lot of dirt and mess, and it will detract from them wanting to walk into the house. So take a broom, a power washer and a few hours on the weekend to keep everything sparkling clean. Dont have a power washer? A professional power washing service can cost as little as 293.

    Photos courtesy of DesignMine

    Full Story >

    Whats Replacing The Home Office

    If youre thinking about getting rid of your home office, or youre trying to decide between a home office and creating another type of space in a new home, you have options. Use this guide to learn more about whats replacing the home office.

    1. Family Rooms

    Spending time with your family should be important. Even if your kids are on their phones and everybody wants to watch something different on TV, quality time matters. To create the perfect family room, all you need is comfortable seating, a table for games, a TV and maybe a bookshelf.

    2. Home Theaters

    Movie aficionados know that the living room is fine for watching movies, but if you want the real experience, a dedicated space is ideal. You may not be able to fit a multiplex-size screen in your room, but that doesnt mean you cant have a home theater of your own. Focus on a high-quality TV, comfortable seating and multiple ways to watch your favorite movies, from Blu-Ray to streaming services. A pair of top-quality stereo speakers or a surround system will also help you enjoy your at-home cinema experience too.

    3. Arts and Crafts Spaces

    Whether youre working on life-size sculpture pieces, painting with oils or just trying to find a place for the kids to work on craft projects, having a dedicated space can be perfect for the creative family. Youll also be able to tailor the room to its purpose, which will make it more functional and easier to handle than a makeshift setup.

    Easy-to-clean surfaces, old furniture from the garage and a coat of eggshell or semi-gloss paint can make cleanup a breeze. A dedicated arts and crafts space can also provide you with an area to do things like wrap gifts for birthdays and events.

    4. Libraries

    Digital books might be increasingly common these days, but for lovers of the tried-and-true paper versions, nothing beats a home library. Giving up your office space can help you turn an extra room into a readers paradise.

    Floor-to-ceiling shelving will work wonders for storage. Built-in options are also ideal if you dont want to commit to a long-term solution. Make sure youve got plenty of comfortable seating, floor lamps, task lights and a cozy blanket or two as well.

    5. Guest Rooms

    Overnight guests can easily overstay their welcome. But having to drive friends and family to a hotel nearby isnt always ideal. For a multipurpose space, you can even consider a pull-out sofa or Murphy bed on the wall. Youll still have room for your family area, theater setup, crafts space or library if you make a sleeping area part of the regular deacute;cor.


    Take the time to decide whats right for your home, family and work needs before making a decision. Remodeling or redesigning can be a costly, time-consuming.

    Andrea Davis is the editor for HomeAdvisor, which helps homeowners find home improvement professionals in their area at no charge to ensure the best service in the shortest amount of time.

    Full Story >

    Ask the HOA Expert: Fixing A Units Roof

    Question: Can individual unit owners prepay their fees in order to fix just their units roof?

    Answer: Condo unit owners typically dont own their unit roofs unless they are detached units, like houses. In attached condominiums, the roofs belong to the HOA. As such, roof repairs and replacements should only be paid for by the HOA according to a prescribed schedule. While lack of funds may force doing only a portion of the roofs, like two of five buildings, replacing the roof over one unit makes little sense since the same unit owner is responsible for a share of the repairs of all unit roofs and if one unit needs a new roof, adjoining units probably need one too. So, no, the board should not cooperate with such an arrangement.

    Question: Recently, the board enacted a "no alcohol in the pool area" rule. This elated some and offended others. The issue soon became hotly contested. Eventually the board agreed to rescind the rule, but stated that it would continuing to research the issue. What do you recommend?

    Answer: Common areas belong to all owners and the HOA has every right to control certain kinds of behavior, especially where there is risk involved. Allowing alcohol around a pool is asking for trouble. Who is going to monitor those that abuse it? Drinkers are often loud, abusive and may decide to swim while inebriated. This is especially dire since few HOA pools have lifeguards present. There is also the issue of broken glass which is a safety issue to one and all. The glass issue, of course, extends to other types of containers.

    This is a good topic for discussion at a special or annual meeting. The board should get a good read on what the majority think. If there is no clear consensus, the board should monitor the alcohol use and, if abuse is frequent, revisit the ban based on historical evidence. There is no Constitutional Right to drink in the common area.

    Question: Several Board members have asked if it is proper for the board to officially recommend specific candidates for election. I have read the bylaws and I dont see anything that addresses this issue.

    Answer: It is perfectly acceptable for the board to appoint a Nominating Committee to solicit candidates that are in good standing. Good Standing: There may be a bylaw restricting members from election that are delinquent in assessments or that have unresolved rule violations. But otherwise, every member in good standing has the right to run for the board, the board should generally avoid steering the election.

    Providing candidate bios and their statements usually provides the voters the information they need to make an informed decision. On the other hand, if your HOA has a large number of owners that dont participate in the annual meetings and elections, board members could solicit their proxies to obtain a legal voting block large enough to swing the vote. The board needs to be careful how it handles such things so its not accused of using undue influence or rigging the election.

    For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, see www.Regenesis.net

    Full Story >

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