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Welcome to our blog! Here you will find information regarding market, local and Lakes Region information and events! Along with DIY projects and more! Come back often to see what's new and leave us a comment if there's something you'd like to see.

7 Cheap Ways To Make Your Kitchen Cabinets Look Expensive

It’s a Catch-22 homeowners are all too familiar with: Remodeling your outdated kitchen is almost certain to pay off big when you sell—but the actual makeover takes big bucks.

By Jennifer Kelly Geddes

Is there any way to make a huge change without all the expense? Well, believe it or not, you can give your kitchen a face-lift without ripping out everything and starting from scratch. Yes, it all comes down to being creative with your cabinets—uppers, lowers, and everything in between.

Here’s some savvy advice from the pros who know, along with excellent cheap and simple cabinet updates you can start—and finish—this weekend.

 

1. Cabinet upgrade: paint your cabinets a fresh color

Photo by Cabinets by Design

You can’t go wrong with basic white in the kitchen. It channels a clean vibe that’s easy to live with, and makes resale a breeze when you’re ready to move.

But a little color is also lovely, especially cool blue hues and trendy pastels. A handy DIYer can paint kitchen cabinets in a couple of days. (It’ll cost you only the paint and brushes—and your time.)

Marty Basher, a professional organizer with Modular Closets, votes for matte paint finishes over glossy, as the latter sheen can veer into garish territory.

“Choose muted colors in jewel and earth tones instead of overly bright ones for a more luxe feel,” he says.

 

2. Cabinet upgrade: install brushed-brass accents

Photo by Boswell Construction 

This one’s easy: Grab a screwdriver and put in new drawer pulls, says Drew Henry of Design Dudes.

“It’s supereasy to upgrade your cabinets with different hardware, and it’ll give you a lovely look,” he says.

Henry’s pick: brushed brass for a chic but quiet appeal.

“And go for elongated drawer pulls with clean angles over small knobs,” he adds.

 

3. Cabinet upgrade: brighten cabinet backs

Photo by Alair Homes Decatur

Glass-front cabinets are all the rage—you might even have a set in your kitchen right now. But rather than style (and restyle) the plate stacks and glasses inside, let paint step in (again) to do the tough work of updating and beautifying your workaday cabinets.

“A fun pop of color on the backs of a few glass-front cabinets adds interest to the room and lightens up the look,” Henry says.

 

4. Cabinet upgrade: add temporary wallpaper

Photo by The Cross Interior Design 

Just as bright paint can enliven your cereal bowl display, so too can a couple of pieces of wallpaper. This can be a quick DIY,  just watch a few tutorials first on how to hang wallpaper. Even better: Make it temporary paper, which you can remove anytime you need a change.

And don’t stop with cabinet backs—temporary wallpaper is a nifty surprise along your drawers’ outside edges. (Just pull the drawers open to reveal a pretty pattern.)

 

5. Cabinet upgrade: install under-cabinet lighting

Photo by Bartelt. The Remodeling Resource

You know that gorgeous glow you spy on Instagram when you’re scrolling kitchen renovations? It comes from under-cabinet lighting. This smart upgrade brightens shadows that are invariably created by overhead pendants and can be installed by a pro for just a couple hundred bucks.

Want to go cheaper? You can get lights that plug in to existing sockets or grab some adhesive lights to press on in dark corners. Or just place a couple of small lamps you already own along counters under your cabinets.

 

6. Cabinet upgrade: consider smart storage

Photo by Dura Supreme Cabinetry

A simple rack or drawer rearrangement can take advantage of unused kitchen cabinet space. If you’re a wine person, you can quickly create an X design with plain wood for stacking bottles on their sides.

Photo by Dura Supreme Cabinetry

Or if baking’s your game, a shallow pull-out to store cookie cutters means you’ll never lose these little tin items again.

 

7. Cabinet upgrade: decorate your cabinets with molding

Photo by Anthony Baratta LLC 

You may not notice it at first, but molding is the unsung decor hero in every room. Simple pieces of crown molding, whether stacked, stepped, or the traditional variety, can be added to the tops of your cabinets for an upgrade that looks custom and expensive.

Karen Gray-Plaisted of Design Solutions KGP approves of crown molding on top of cabinets as it extends the design right the ceiling.

“Or reconfigure just a couple of upper cabinets to reach your ceiling like the ones around the sink or refrigerator area,” she says.

You might also try bottom molding, which is just what it sounds like: decorative pieces you attach to the edges or the base of lower cabinets or the kitchen island.

Adding these “feet” transforms lowers or an island, making them look like pieces of furniture.

 

Jennifer Kelly Geddes creates content for WhatToExpect.com, the National Sleep Foundation, American Airlines Vacations, Oxo, and Mastercard.

America's Real Estate Market May Be Finally Recovering From the Pandemic—Here's Proof

America’s housing market has undergone some wild swings during the coronavirus pandemic, but at long last, it appears to be recovering.

(Realtor.com / Getty Images)

By Margaret Heidenry

In June, the number of real estate listings rose by 18.7% compared with a year earlier, according to a new report by Realtor.com®. That’s the second straight month of growth, and the fastest rise on record since July 2017, when this data was first collected. All told, this amounts to 98,000 more homes for sale every day compared with the same time last year.

Granted, this record-setting growth has a long way to go before boosting the nation’s housing inventory levels back to where they were before COVID-19. Three years ago, in June 2019, there were 53.2% more homes on the market—more than double what’s available today.

Nonetheless, the latest numbers suggest that America’s housing shortage woes might be seeing a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

High home prices set yet another record

This gush of new sellers is likely motivated by the desire to cash in, as their profits continue to skyrocket. In June, median home prices hit another record high of $450,000—up 16.9% compared with last year and a whopping 31.4% compared with June 2020.

Meanwhile, weary buyers face not only sky-high home prices but also rising mortgage rates that now hover at 5.8%. And that financial double whammy is hitting homebuyers hard: Compared with just a year ago, the cost of financing 80% of a typical home rose 57.6%, amounting to an extra $745 per month.

Yet there is some relief in sight for home shoppers: The flood of new homes on the market likely means they’ll have more leverage when it comes to negotiating down the asking price. This, in turn, could help temper the raging seller's market of the past two years and begin to balance the highly lopsided negotiating dynamics.

“The increase in the number of homes for sale in June is due to a couple of key factors: Namely, sellers are putting more homes up for sale than last year. In fact, we’re back to about as many sellers as we saw in a typical pre-pandemic market,” explains Realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale.

“At the same time, buyers have grown pickier as home prices and, more importantly, their monthly payment costs skyrocketed as mortgage rates surge,” says Hale. “We’re getting more supply of homes for sale just as demand is reaching a breaking point for many buyers, and this has led to a rapid rebalancing or reset of the housing market.”

One city that illustrates the changes afoot is Austin, TX, which was one of the hottest markets during the height of the early pandemic real estate frenzy. In June, Austin’s active listings shot up 144.5% compared with last year.

“Prices are definitely starting to go down again, and the competition is slowing,” says Ryan Rodenbeck, owner and broker at Spyglass Realty in Austin. “Last Friday, an Austin home was listed at $825,000. The next day, at the open house, no one came. A few months ago, there would have been 20 or more buyers showing up. The sellers didn’t want to test the market, so on Sunday, they dropped it to $790,000. It sold for $760,000.”

Other hot spots, including Raleigh, NC, and Phoenix, also saw their inventory levels increase by more than 100% year over year.

“These markets are undergoing rapid adjustments and are great examples of the nationwide trend we’re seeing,” says Hale. “Sellers in these areas are jumping into the market while buyers are growing more selective.”

How quickly are homes selling today?

Despite skyrocketing listings, home prices, and mortgage rates, many buyers continue to waste no time making an offer. In June 2019, listings remained active for 59 days on average. Today, that window has shrunk to a mere 32 days. This time crunch is tied with last month’s record low, the shortest time on record since 2016.

Desperate home shoppers likely still jump at the chance to land a home because they see the writing on the wall: Interest rates are likely to continue to climb.

“Surveys showed that shoppers generally expected higher mortgage rates throughout the course of the year,” says Hale. “Concern that mortgage rates could continue to trend even higher is going to keep home shoppers motivated through summer and likely all throughout 2022.”

 

Margaret Heidenry is a writer living in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, and Boston Magazine.

Are Bidding Wars Over? That Depends on Whether Home Sellers Make These Mistakes

Bidding wars: Sellers love ’em, buyers hate ’em.

(Getty Images)

By Lisa Johnson Mandell

In the rollicking seller's market we’ve had over the past couple of years, sellers have enjoyed watching homebuyers bend over backward to outdo one another, with ever-higher home prices, fewer (or no) contingencies, and other perks in an effort to entice sellers to pick their offer over all others.

But a subtle shift is afoot. Interest rates are rising, slashing buyers’ borrowing power. Plus, the Realtor.com® June Housing Report shows an uptick in the number of homes for sale.

“The biggest positive for buyers is that they’re seeing more homes on the market now,” says Realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale. “This means more options for them to consider in their home search.”

While the market still has a long way to go before it tilts definitively in buyers’ favor, sellers today can no longer kick back and just presume a bidding war will roll in.

“As the market is transitioning, buyer psychology is also transitioning,” says Lauren Schaffer of Triplemint in New York. “Bidding war fatigue coupled with a softening market has created a newfound sentiment that buyers don’t need to engage in a bidding war in order to secure a home.”

However, home seller psychology has yet to catch up to this new reality, putting many at risk of making a variety of mistakes that could squash their odds of receiving multiple offers—or of coming out ahead if they do. Here are some missteps sellers will want to avoid in today’s changing market.

Keeping an eligible homebuyer waiting too long because you’re hoping for a bidding war

Schaffer in New York currently has a three-bedroom condo that should have sold weeks ago.

“When the listing first hit the market, we received a ton of interest and even received an offer from a qualified buyer over asking price within the first week, ” she says. However, “instead of accepting the offer right away and pushing to contract, our seller wanted to take some time to let the offer ‘breathe.'”

In the past, this breathing room might have allowed time for more offers to roll in. But that did not happen this time.

“When we shared with other buyers that we had an over-ask offer on the table, everybody flaked,” Schaffer says. “For some buyers, there was an immediate and visible adverse reaction to the update. For others, it took a few days for them to circle back, only to say, ‘thanks, but no thanks—we don’t want to engage in a bidding war.'”

You can guess what happened next.

“From there, we circled back to accept the first buyer’s offer, but that buyer also decided to move on,” says Shaffer. The condo is still on the market today.

The moral of this story: If you get a decent offer, especially over the asking price, accept it in a reasonable amount of time, which is typically no more than a few days. No one likes to feel like you’re holding out for something better, and today’s buyers have other options, too—and may very well move on.

Expecting homebuyers to bend to your every whim

In the past, home sellers had so much leverage that their “negotiation” with buyers seemed more like sellers simply telling them how it is. Want buyers to waive their home inspection or home appraisal contingency? No problem. Buyers would have to fall in line or else would lose the house.

Now, however, this lopsided, somewhat despotic dynamic is no longer a given.

“We are seeing more contingencies for inspections, financing, and more modest earnest money deposits,” says Jenn Cameron, managing partner of The Agency Seattle.

Today, sellers in many markets can’t really expect buyers to waive contingencies. And if an inspector finds something seriously wrong with the roof, for example, the seller is more likely to have to give the buyers a credit to get it fixed. Buyers might also make additional requests, like certain pieces of furniture being thrown in or other seller concessions.

Don’t be offended; be flexible.

“Sellers would be best advised to go with the flow,” says Cameron. “This doesn’t mean automatically dropping their price. But it does mean being realistic. This is not the time to be steadfastly fixed in any one position. Sometimes you only need to give a little to get a lot.”

Skimping on presentation

There was a point, not too long ago, when homebuyers were so desperate to purchase property that sellers need not lift a finger in terms of making their home look its best. Many buyers were even willing to buy homes sight unseen.

But with housing inventory rising and rabid homebuyer desperation in the rear-view mirror, sellers are again having to step up their game and spruce up their homes. So put a little elbow grease into the presentation of your home, and expect buyers to be as particular as they were before COVID-19.

“Setting the stage for obtaining multiple strong offers is very important,” says Cindy O’Gorman of The Agency Los Altos. “Sellers need to take great care in preparing their homes to bring in the most amount of buyers at the highest price. This is what creates a successful bidding war for the seller.”

Accepting the highest offer, even if it’s on shaky ground

Steve Brown of Las Vegas chose to accept the highest offer on his house, even though the buyer requested a four-month escrow.

“I thought a long escrow would be just fine, since it would give me plenty of time to look for my next home,” he recalls. But you know what they say about the best-laid plans.

“During the first month, I found two homes I really wanted to buy, but lost out in bidding wars because I had to request a longer escrow myself,” he laments. “To make matters worse, at the end of the four months, my buyer backed out of his offer, and I had to go through the hassle of putting my house on the market all over again.”

Brown says he really wishes he would have chosen the second-highest offer on his house the first time around, even though it was $15,000 less than the highest.

The lesson: Don’t be deceived by dollar signs. Certain other deal factors, like an all-cash offer or release of contingencies, can be worth far more than the difference in price. Carefully consider the pluses and minuses of every offer, even if it’s not one of the highest.

Pricing your home way below market value in anticipation of a bidding war—which may not happen

During the home-selling heyday a year ago, one Tampa, FL, homeowner with the initials J.R. (who prefers anonymity) saw his neighbors price their homes below their estimated value. He soon saw why with the insane bidding war that ensued, driving the final sales price well over the asking price.

“So I listed my house about $10,000 below the estimated value, thinking a lot of buyers would see that and jump in,” he says. “I hate to admit it, but I guess my timing was off. I couldn’t believe it when I started getting offers that were actually below my list price.”

With an increased number of homes in the same price range on the market, buyers had more choices and weren’t as desperate. It’s a good lesson that sellers can’t take anything for granted these days, and that the old ploy of pricing low to sell high might have lost its oomph. As always, this will vary by area, so make sure to check the sales price of comparable properties, aka comps, and consult with a real estate agent on the best pricing strategy for you.

Getting frustrated by how long it’s taking for offers to roll in

All that said, just because the market is shifting a bit definitely does not mean sellers will never see a bidding war again.

According to real estate agents, residential properties are still receiving multiple offers. It’s just taking a wee bit longer to get them, and there might not be quite as many bidders as the deluge a home might have received a year earlier.

“It’s likely sellers will experience longer market times,” says Cameron. She adds that the wait can be frustrating for sellers, many of whom have come to expect a swift sale. But in most cases, it’s worth the wait.

 

Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award-winning writer who covers lifestyle, entertainment, real estate, design, and travel. Find her on ReallyRather.com

How to Clean Brick Pavers for an Outdoor Space That Looks Like New

Brick pavers are a strong material perfect for creating patios, garden paths, driveways and even pool surrounds. But without maintenance, brick starts to look worn and dirty, and can even become loose or uneven.

CREDIT: KRITSADA PANICHGUL

By Kristina McGuirk

Frequent sweeping is one of the best ways to keep brick pavers looking good. But pavers can get soiled with muddy shoes, windblown dirt, food spills, and standing water—and these require a bit more elbow grease. Here's how to clean brick pavers so they keep their crisp lines and natural color. 

Before You Start 

The cleaning methods discussed below are for unpainted, clay brick pavers only. Some cleaners and scrubbing tools may damage paint, so look for specific cleaners and directions to best care for those surfaces. Concrete brick pavers can be treated similar to clay brick pavers, but look for commercial products approved for cement and concrete. A home improvement store that sells cleaning solutions should be able to help.

Just a few supplies and bit of elbow grease can keep your patio or garden path looking new.

What You'll Need

  • Stiff-bristle scrub brush 

  • Broom

  • Garden hose

  • Cleaning solution

  • Gloves

  • Handheld sprayer or bucket and sponge

  • Tarps (optional)

  • Low-power pressure washer (optional)

  • Additional mortar or sand for joints (optional)

 

How to Clean Brick Pavers 

Step 1: Check the Weather 

When using a solution to tackle paver grime, the Brick Industry Association (BIA) recommends cleaning when the temperature is above 50 degrees and will stay above freezing for a week. Avoid cleaning in high temperatures so that water and cleaning solutions don't dry too quickly. Cleaning solutions that dry on brick often result in residue that you'll have to scrub away again. 

Step 2: Clear the Area and Make Repairs

Relocate planters, furniture, and other items on or obstructing access to pavers. Remove moss growth and pull out weeds and other plants sprouting between pavers. Be cautious not to loosen pavers when uprooting big weeds or damage the bricks or joints with sharp weeding tools. Your goal is to fully expose the brick for an even clean, which may mean trimming back encroaching overgrowth from landscaping. Consider covering nearby landscaping to protect it from overspray and cleaning solutions. 

If there are damaged bricks, uneven pavers, or mortar that's worn away, now is the good time to make those fixes, too. For brick installations that use sand in the joints, do not replace sand until you're done cleaning. Finally, sweep away large debris like rocks, twigs, or chunks of dirt.

Step 3: Pick a Cleaning Solution (or Two)

The BIA recommends checking with brick manufacturers for maintenance advice, since cleaning methods vary based on the specific material, installation, and what needs to be cleaned from the paver. However, if that information is not available, the BIA has a basic guide for brick types and cleaning methods. It also discusses how to tackle specific stains.

Start by identifying cleaning solutions based on what you're trying to do, whether that's getting an overall clean or spot-treating a specific stain (or both). Water and mild dish soap is a popular cleaning solution because it's easy to find at home and it won't damage brick, but it will tackle stains. The BIA recommends using hot water for surface cleaning with a detergent. 

White vinegar and water, another common household cleaner, can also be used on mildew. For brick pavers that get a greenish or blackish hue from moss and lichen, damp shady environments, or water run-off, the BIA recommends bleach and water (mixed with a one-to-one ratio) or commercially available biocide treatments.

There are also a number of commercial cleaners available at home improvement retailers. Products should indicate if they work for brick or masonry, but you can also look for stain-specific cleaners too. Simple Green is a popular brick-friendly cleaning product that can tackle oil, grease, or rust that builds up on locations like driveways. 

Avoid harsh, acidic cleaners if you don't need them—the BIA notes these cleaning solutions "may not be appropriate for pavements containing joint sand stabilizers or polymeric sand-filled joints." If you're not sure what you're trying to remove from the brick's surface, start with the least harsh cleaner first, like detergent and water. Then work up to more powerful solutions. 

Choose an inconspicuous spot, like under a chair or table, to test the cleaning solution before going forward with all the pavers. Follow the steps below to clean the area, and give the spot time to dry, too, in order to make sure nothing looks funny or discolored later.

Step 4: Wet the Brick Pavers

Before you apply most cleaners to brick, coat the area with water. "Saturating the surface prior to cleaning reduces the masonry's absorption rate, permitting the cleaning solution to stay on the surface of the brickwork rather than being absorbed," says Charles B. Clark, Jr., vice president of engineering services for the Brick Industry Association. Stopping absorption not only allows the cleaner to stay on the surface to break down grime, but it also prevents cleaning solution residue from settling into the brick. 

Step 5: Apply Cleaning Solution and Scrub

Put on gloves to protect your hands, especially when working with a short-handled brush. The BIA recommends working in small, manageable sections to avoid letting the water primer or cleaning solution dry. Apply the cleaning solution as directed on packaging, or with a sponge and bucket, handheld sprayer, or watering can designated for cleaning solution, depending on the size of the area. 

Most solutions need to sit on brick for a few minutes so the cleaner can loosen dirt and hard residue like stuck-on food particles. However, follow directions for commercial products, and consider giving something like a vinegar solution a little time to work on particularly dense mildew or mold. Then scrub the surface with a stiff-bristle brush to dislodge and remove the grime, being careful not to brush away sand intended to remain between pavers. Do not use steel brushes because they can scratch the brick.

You can use a pressure washer for cleaning and rinsing newer brick pavers, but it is not recommended for older bricks or damaged mortar. "In general, using a low pressurized water cleaning device is appropriate," says Clark. "Low pressure is categorized by less than 400 psi." When pressure washing, the BIA recommends a wider degree nozzle (15 or 40 degrees) and maintaining a minimum distance of 12 inches between the nozzle and the brick. Do not spray directly into the joints between the pavers because it can dislodge sand and mortar that keeps the pavers in place. 

Cleaning mildew or lichen might take a few attempts; don't get discouraged if you have to go through the process more than once to revive especially dingy pavers. 

Step 6: Rinse Surface

After cleaning brick pavers, rinse the surface with a regular hose. You can use a low-pressure power washer if you want extra cleaning power for stuck-on gunk, but be sure not to aim it between pavers. Don't let water linger after rinsing. Sweep water off the pavers in places where water gathers, especially if it's a spot previously suffering from mildew buildup. 

Step 7: Refill Joints with Sand (Optional)

If there's sand (not mortar) between the brick pavers, you'll likely need to add more after pressure washing. You might even need to touch up the sand if you pulled out weeds before cleaning, or if it's simply been a while since the pavers were installed. 

Once the pavers have dried (give it a day or two), refill the spaces between bricks with sand. Brush the sand into the joints and sweep away excess on the surface. Hose down the area to settle the new sand between the pavers. 

 

Kristina McGuirk is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and editor who covers kitchens, bathrooms, home improvement, decorating, and more for BHG.com. 

6 Ways To Upgrade Your Outdoor Space for $100 or Less

The sizzle of summer is in full effect, and the priority for most homeowners seems to be replicating the spirit and convenience of the indoors, outside. That means making backyards, patios, and decks as comfortable and fun as possible.

(Photo by Smith & Vansant Architects PC via Houzz)

By Kathleen Willcox

The appetite for upgrading outdoor spaces is at an all-time high, but with the pressures of inflation, 43% of homeowners are less willing to part with their hard-earned cash on home improvement projects.

Homeowners who want a prettier and more functional space outdoors don’t need to wait for an economic miracle to make their yard more livable, though. We reached out to design and landscaping experts for insight into how to upgrade their yards on a dime—no special equipment or skills required. Read on and get ready for instant outdoor inspiration.

1. Paint your front door

Photo by Ana Williamson Architect 

One of the fastest and most impactful ways to improve the look of your home, enhance curb appeal, and make the front porch feel more welcoming is by painting the front door.

“There are so many things that homeowners can do to improve the look and feel outside their homes at a very low cost,” says Tomas Satas, founder and CEO of Chicago’s Windy City HomeBuyer. “When we buy and flip a home, one of the first things we do is repaint the front door.

A fresh coat of paint and a bright color—red, purple, royal blue—won’t just draw people to your yard, they can also give you an opportunity to show off your unique style.

Estimated cost: Supplies, including high-quality paint and a paintbrush, will run you $75 or less.

2. Install a hammock or swing chair

Photo by studiovert environmental + interior design

Swinging in the breeze under a tree is practically the definition of a laid-back summer.

“There’s no more enjoyable way to pass a sunny summer afternoon or evening than from the coziness of a hammock,” says Robert J Fischer, owner and broker at the Robert J Fischer Team at Keller Williams Realty in Round Rock, TX.

Zaeem Chaudhary, an architectural draftsman at AC Design Solutions, suggests adding a swinging rope chair to your seating setup.

“Outdoor chairs can be really uncomfortable,” Chaudhary notes. “Switch to rope chair swings instead, especially if you want to spend a lot of time outside.”

Estimated cost: This dreamy, bohemian hammock will cost you $70, or you can pick up a whimsical swing chair of $65 at Walmart.

3: Bring the Wi-Fi outside

If you work from home or your family loves being able to stream videos outside, upgrade your Wi-Fi.

“If you work from home as so many of us still do, summer is the time to turn the back deck or patio into your office,” says Martin Orefice, CEO of Rent To Own Labs in Orlando, FL. “Unfortunately, your home’s Wi-Fi signal doesn’t always travel to every area of your yard. Investing in a simple Wi-Fi repeater will solve the problem, enabling you to get online and take a Zoom call. It’s also obviously convenient for families who like to spend a lot of time outside.”

Estimated cost: Wi-Fi repeaters are $60-plus at Amazon.

4. Block out the noise with wind chimes

Photo by Buckminster Green LLC 

If noise pollution from yakking neighbors, lawn mowers, or traffic is turning your tranquil space into a cacophonous nightmare, there’s a refreshingly simple and lo-fi solution to that.

“Wind chimes provide outdoor areas with a little musical personality, while also reducing other noises,” says Laurice Constantine, founder of real estate development platform Casadar. “They also add a multisensorial layer to your outside space.”

Estimated cost: Wind chimes can be found for as little as $15 on Wayfair.

5. Upgrade the accessories

“Adding a few colorful outdoor throws to your patio furniture adds a pop of color and can come in handy on chilly nights,” says Kate Diaz, an interior designer and co-founder of Swanky Den. “Hanging a decorative banner or flag above your porch or deck or buying a new doormat or welcome sign for your front door are also fast and inexpensive ways to make a big impact.”

Or, grab a colorful outdoor rug to zhuzh up your space.

“Outdoor rugs are perfect for adding personality and making your space more cozy and inviting,” says Kevin Lenhart, design director at online landscape design platform Yardzen. “If you don’t have the budget to upgrade all of your outdoor furniture, a rug is a great way to liven up the space. Look for rugs made from recycled plastics for fun but inexpensive options.”

Estimated cost: Throws start at $25 at Amazon, or pick up an outdoor rug at Home Depot for as little as $22.

6. Set up a movie theater

If you really want to transform your space, bring Hollywood to the backyard,

“Creating a backyard movie theater is one of the best and easiest ways to make over your space on a budget,” says Emma Loker, a landscaping and design expert at DIY Garden. “All you need is a projector, foldable screen, and speaker. The impact is instantaneous.”

Estimated cost: Outdoor theater kits start at $70 on Amazon.

 

Kathleen Willcox is a journalist who covers real estate, travel, and food and wine. She lives in Saratoga Springs, NY.

The Housing Market Is Correcting—So Why Are Home Prices Still Soaring?

Home prices have continued their seemingly inexorable rise, despite America’s housing market purportedly being in the throes of a correction, a slowdown—whatever you want to call it. It’s defying what many experts predicted and, just maybe, conventional wisdom.

(Collage by Realtor.com / Getty Images)

By Clare Trapasso

Buyers can’t afford these higher prices on top of higher mortgage interest rates. Deals are falling through. Bidding wars are drying up. Six-figure offers over the asking price are going the way of the dinosaurs. So how is it possible that median home list prices were 15.9% higher in the week ending July 9 than they were a year ago, according to Realtor.com® data?

The disconnect appears to be that home sellers have yet to adjust to this new reality—the one where they can’t slap whatever price they’d like on their properties, sit back, and wait for the bidding wars to commence. Surging mortgage rates have made it impossible for many buyers to afford what they could have just a few months ago.

Meanwhile, record-high home prices are up more than 31% over the past two years, according to Realtor.com June list price data. And they keep rising. Something seems like it needs to give.

“Prices adjust really slowly,” says Realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale. “Sellers are shaped by recent experiences. Before we see prices start coming down, we’re going to have to see sellers stop shooting for the moon.”

And just because sellers are asking for more money, it doesn’t mean they’re getting it. Buyers are negotiating. The number of price reductions on properties doubled in June compared with a year earlier.

Last month, about 11% of builders dropped prices on newly constructed homes, according to building consultancy Zonda. An additional 70% kept them flat compared with May.

“Real estate markets freeze when you see a big change in mortgage rates or the economy,” says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “Buyers cannot handle these house prices at these mortgage rates,” he says. “The mortgage payment is just too high for most first-time homebuyers. Trade-up buyers aren’t going to trade up because they’re going to have to get a higher mortgage rate.”

Home prices typically spike in the summer. Larger, more expensive homes go up for sale, and families eager to be settled before the kids start school in the fall compete for them. Plus, there are scores of millennials who are reaching the point in their lives when the idea of homeownership becomes more appealing. But now there still aren’t nearly enough homes for sale, or rent, to go around.

Record-low mortgage rates, which fell into the 2% range last year, allowed buyers to afford higher home prices. The lower rates meant that many monthly mortgage payments remained reasonable, balancing out the extra buyers spent on their properties.

However, mortgage rates have spiked from just about 3% a year ago to the mid-5% range. That’s tacked hundreds of dollars a month onto many mortgage payments. Buyers today are faced with mortgage bills 58% higher than they were just one year ago—when prices were also at record highs—on top of higher inflation, rents, and gas prices. That’s rendered many unable to borrow nearly as much for a home anymore and forced many others out of the market.

“A lot of homeowners are still pricing homes based on the market of six months ago,” says George Ratiu, manager of economic research for Realtor.com. “There is a gap between what homeowners are asking and what they’re getting.”

Will home prices fall?

The top question on the minds of homebuyers and sellers alike is whether home prices are going to fall—and if so, by how much.

Many real estate experts anticipate the rate of price growth will slow down as the year goes on. Others predict prices will flatten out as sellers and builders digest the new state of the market and buyers figure out their finances.

“It takes a little time for the wheel to turn,” notes Devyn Bachman, senior vice president of research at John Burns Real Estate Consulting.

Ultimately, exactly what happens to prices will depend largely on individual real estate markets as well as the price ranges the homes are in. Places where prices rose the most during the COVID-19 pandemic are the most likely to come down and have the potential to decrease the most.

These places, such as Austin, TX, Phoenix, AZ and Boise, ID, got juiced by an influx of remote workers and investors who kept prices above what many locals could afford. Now that fewer telecommuters are moving in and with mortgage rates making purchases even more difficult, prices might readjust.

But prices could continue to rise, at least by low single digits, in other parts of the country.

“Housing is so local that it’s hard to paint with a broad brush and say prices will decline. But if you look at the individual ZIP codes as well as certain metros, we will see pricing declines in some of them,” says Bachman. “Home values are no longer realistic for today’s buyers. They can’t afford them.”

A recession is the wild card in the future of home prices

The wild card in all of this is a recession. If there’s an economic downturn, then home prices (as well as mortgage rates) are more likely to adjust. Potential buyers who are laid off or are worried about losing their jobs, probably aren’t going to be attending open houses and putting in offers.

However, home prices aren’t expected to drop off a cliff the way they did during the Great Recession.

The reason: The number of investors and aspiring homeowners right now far exceeds the number of properties for sale. Builders have struggled to ramp construction back up since the mid-2000s, and investors have bought many of the properties that used to house homeowners and turned them into rentals. That demand is expected to keep prices high.

“The market is very tight. That will put a proverbial floor under prices,” says Zandi.

Meanwhile, an influx of foreclosures and short sales like what the housing market experienced in the Great Recession doesn’t appear on the horizon. Lenders have become much choosier when doling out mortgages to ensure only the most qualified applicants receive them. Most predatory mortgages have been eliminated. This leaves homeowners in a much better place to weather another downturn.

“To get big declines in prices, you need to see a lot of foreclosure and distressed sales at big discounted prices,” says Moody’s Zandi. “That’s very unlikely because mortgage lenders have been very cautious since the crisis, and they’ve only [mainly] been making plain vanilla 30-year and 15-year fixed-rate loans.”

He anticipates a downturn could push prices down 5% across the board and much more so in overheated markets.

And, in a boon for buyers, mortgage rates typically fall when the economy is hurting. That can “cushion the blow” for many folks struggling to afford real estate, says Zandi.

The housing correction is fewer sales, more available homes

While the housing correction might not yet be showing up in prices, it’s apparent in the fast-falling number of homes changing hands.

There were about 6.1 million home sales a month in 2021, according to the National Association of Realtors® data. (This doesn’t include sales of newly constructed homes.) In May, the latest month of data available, that fell to about 5.4 million sales a month. That’s a substantial change.

“Home sales have slowed pretty notably. They’re back below their pre-pandemic pace,” says Hale, of Realtor.com. “The housing market is not as hot as it was last year. But compared to any pre-pandemic year, it’s still a pretty hot real estate market.”

One of the side effects of fewer sales is an increase in the inventory of homes on the market, helping to ease the housing shortage. There were 18.7% more homes for sale in June than there were a year ago.

While there aren’t nearly enough properties on the market to ease the housing crunch, more homes for sale is “a reason for buyers to get optimistic,” says Hale.

 

Clare Trapasso is the deputy news editor of Realtor.com where she writes and edits news and data stories. She previously wrote for a Financial Times publication, the New York Daily News, and the Associated Press. She also taught journalism courses at several New York City colleges.

Renovating a Home During Inflation: How To Add Value Without Draining Your Savings Account

Need a little help feeling good about staying put for the time being? Then perhaps, it’s time for a remodel project to turn your house into the home you’ve always dreamed about.

By Meera Pal

With inflation at a 40-year high and mortgage rates more than 2% points higher than they were six months ago (and continuing to climb), you might find that now is not the right time to buy a new home. Instead, it might be time to love the one you already own.

Before you run away screaming at the thought of renovating, hear us out.

A remodel could increase the overall value of your home, which would be beneficial if you consider selling in the future. (And maybe a home face-lift will make you want to stay put.)

“Renovation projects are a great way to retain the value of your money in a high-inflation environment,” says Rick Berres, owner of Honey-Doers, a Lakeville, MN–based company that provides residential remodeling services. “But you shouldn’t put yourself into debt doing so.”

While the prices for everything from lumber to labor might be higher, it’s still possible to embark on a home remodel project without draining your bank account. Here’s how.

Is a home improvement project worth it right now?

While the cost of renovating your home will depend on square footage, the region you live in, and what you’d like to get done, the average home remodel costs anywhere from $25,000 on the low end to $76,000 on the high end.

And the latest remodeling impact report from the National Association of Realtors® found that Americans spent about $420 billion in 2020 on home remodeling projects. The majority remodeled for the following reasons:

  • To upgrade worn-out surfaces, finishes, and materials

  • To add features and improve livability

  • To simply make a change

Homeowners experienced more enjoyment in their homes after specific interior remodel projects and saw huge returns on their investments. Improvements that earned a more significant cost recovery included refinishing hardwood floors (147%) and installing new wood floors (118%).

The exterior home improvements that saw the most significant cost recovery in homeowner investments included a new roof (100%) and a new garage door (100%).

How to pay for a home renovation project during inflation

We all know that “cash is king”—however, it might not be the best option for financing a home renovation project.

If you have enough money in the bank to cover the cost of a home remodel and to maintain an emergency fund, then cash is likely the best way to finance your home improvements. After all, it means not worrying about loans or interest.

But if you don’t have enough cash for a home renovation, consider other standard options: a home equity line of credit, a home equity loan, or a credit card.

Let’s break down each financing option below.

Home equity line of credit

A home equity line of credit, or HELOC, is a line of credit that uses your house as collateral. The amount you’ll be able to borrow is contingent on how much equity you have in your home, your credit score, and your debt-to-income ratio.

Home equity is based on the difference between your home’s value and the amount you still owe your mortgage lender. As you make mortgage payments and continue to pay off your home loan, you are increasing the equity you have in your home.

A HELOC essentially provides a revolving line of credit—much like a credit card—over a set period of time (usually five to 20 years).

“One benefit of using HELOC to pay for your home improvement project is that, since your home equity line of credit is secured by your home, the interest rate on the loan will be lower than the rate on an unsecured loan,” says Kevin Bazazzadeh, a real estate investor and founder of Brilliant Day Homes in Houston.

Remember that interest on a HELOC or a home equity loan is tax deductible because the funds are used to renovate your home.

But there is a potentially big downside to a HELOC: Interest rates are variable, which means rates will go up or down with market conditions.

Home equity loan

A home equity loan also allows homeowners to take out a loan, borrowing the money based on the value or equity they have in their property.

But unlike a HELOC, homeowners who take out a home equity loan receive one lump sum upfront, then repay it in monthly installments with interest over a set time (usually five to 15 years).

Another upside of a home equity loan is that it tends to be fixed-rate, making it less volatile than a HELOC. And if you are solely using the funds for home improvement, you can deduct the interest paid on up to specific amounts ($750,000 for a married couple or $375,000 for an individual).

Credit card

According to a recent survey from online consumer lender LightStream, 35% of homeowners “intend to use their credit cards to pay for home improvement projects.”

But should you? The answer lies in how quickly you plan to pay off the credit card.

“If the renovation is small and can be paid off quickly, a credit card may be the best option, says Shaun Martin, the owner and CEO of Denver Real Estate Solutions. “Credit cards typically offer interest-free periods of up to 21 months, which can help minimize the renovation cost.”

If you plan to carry that balance forward for a few years while you pay it off, credit cards are not the way to go—especially now.

“Using a credit card during high inflation means you will pay a higher interest rate on the outstanding balance of your credit card if the Federal Reserve raises interest rates,” warns Bazazzadeh.

Remember, paying interest on a credit card balance will only add to the overall cost of your project.

How to add value to your home without going broke

If you’re just not up for taking on a home remodel or renovation project, there are still things you can do to add value to your home that might not involve taking out a home loan.

“Focus on low-cost and DIY home improvement projects you are capable of doing on your own is another way to increase value without draining the bank account,” says John Bodrozic, co-founder of HomeZada, an app that helps homeowners keep track of their finances.

“Examples include installing landscape lighting or replacing old carpeting with engineered wood floors you can learn to install yourself,” he says.

Or make cosmetic improvements, such as painting the interior or exterior of your home to add value and increase its curb appeal.

 

Meera Pal is a Northern California-based writer with a background in journalism and books. She covers tech, real estate, and everything in between.

How To Remodel Your Bathroom Without Renovating

It doesn’t take a master plumber’s license to make small changes that can have a major impact; you just need to put on your project manager's hat and dive in.

By Erin Flaherty

Kitchen renovations seem to get all of the glory, but a refresh of the room where you spend the most time devoted to personal care can have a majorly positive effect on your day-to-day life. Here are a few upgrades that can spruce up your space with minimal headache. 

Get a new shower curtain

A sophisticated shower curtain sets the tone for the whole room. (Society 6)

The absolute easiest fix can actually be a game changer in such a small space. Most people don’t think twice about hanging a standard plastic shower curtain in their bathroom, but it’s a lost opportunity to make a design statement with a much nicer-looking cloth hanging that can dictate the whole vibe of the room. (Just don’t forget to hang a plastic vinyl liner behind it to prevent water spillage.)

Apply fresh grout to tiles

If you’ve scrubbed your grout within an inch of its life and it still looks moldy and discolored, it’s time to replace it. Wearing a mask, use a handheld removal tool to gently scrape existing grout away. When you’re finished, wipe the area to create a clean surface. Mix your grout and apply using a spreader and finisher.

Depending on the look of your existing tiles, you may want to match the color, or use a darker shade of grout to add contrast to light tiles.

Add new hardware

Touches of black hardware elevate the whole look. (@matte_black_lifestyle/Instagram)

Replacing your existing sink or tub may be well out of the price range, but new fixtures like faucets are surprisingly inexpensive, and really catch the eye. Most sets available are standard sizes, so all you have to do is choose the design. Similarly, it’s not a huge undertaking to replace a leaky old showerhead with, say, a higher-end rainfall model. However, unless you have basic plumbing skills, we’d advise you pay a professional to install the new pieces.

Not prepared to pay a service bill? Almost anyone can replace drawer pulls, and it’s so easy to find sets in a broad range of styles, from vintage to modern.

According to Alden Fenwick of Alden Fenwick Design, based in New York City and the Hamptons, matte black is currently one of the most popular choices, especially if you want to spend less.

“Metal finishes are harder to pass off on the cheaper end,” she explains. The Home Depot has a vast array of affordable options.

Another easy fix? Buy a matching bathroom set (containing essentials like a towel holder, toilet paper roll, and door hooks) to pull a cohesive theme together.

Paint the walls white

It’s fine to get creative with the wall color in other parts of your home, but crisp white is best when it comes to making a small space seem larger. Any decorator will tell you that a fresh coat of paint is the simplest way to instantly transform a room and make it look especially fresh and clean. But for the bathroom, choose a mildew-resistant formula to help prevent mold. While you have your materials out, why not paint outdated cabinetry for a more dramatic revamp?

Reglaze the tub

A new tub will cost a few thousand—but the far more budget-friendly option is to reglaze the tub you have, which will run you around $500. It’s a relatively simple process that transforms your grimy old bathtub into a sparkling-new watering hole.

This is not a task you can easily achieve on your own, so hiring a professional to do the honors may be the way to go. Yet if you’re handy and ambitious, by all means do it yourself. Here’s more on how to reglaze a tub.

Consider a more flattering light fixture

Upgrade your standard vanity lighting. (ShadesofLight.com)

Statement light fixtures used to be reserved for high-end renovations, but nowadays, there are so many affordable options thanks to online shops like All Modern and Schoolhouse.

Want to add a warm, flattering cast to the room? Here’s an old Hollywood lighting trick: Swap regular old lightbulbs for ones that are slightly pink-tinged.

Add a stick-on backsplash

Adhesive tiles have come a long way. (Etsy)

Your vanity is a natural focal point of your bathroom, so why not add a little pizazz while also protecting your walls from a high moisture area? We consider actual tile application to be on the more advanced side of DIY home projects, but new adhesive backsplashes are easy to apply.

Pro tip: Use a blow-dryer to make sure it goes on smooth and fully adheres.

 

Erin Flaherty is a writer, editor, and real estate agent based in Woodstock, NY.

 

5 Water-Saving Solutions for Your Vegetable Garden

Water is a valuable resource, so don’t waste it. Apply just enough water so vegetables thrive and are productive. Some vegetables need more water during the growing season than others, but they may not need it every day.

By Ana Durrani

It’s going to be a long, hot summer, which means water conservation is more important than ever. In fact, in states such as California, homeowners are facing strict water restrictions. But your precious cherry tomato, pepper, and cucumber plants need water to thrive. What’s a gardener to do?

When first creating your vegetable garden, experts recommend planting garden plants closer together to maximize garden space and minimize wasted water. They also recommend referring to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map for more information on your plant’s water needs.

Additionally, here are a few smart ways to keep your vegetable garden thriving while also using the bare minimum amount of water.

1. Mulch the soil

Photo by Earth Design, Inc.

Mulch is any organic material that covers the soil’s surface. The most common types of mulch are wood chips, leaves, and grass clippings.

“Straw or leaves are also great solutions that are readily available for cheap or free in most places,” says Roslynn McCann, sustainable communities extension specialist at Utah State University Moab.

Many people tend to throw their leaves away, she says, but leaves provide nutrients to the soil when applied as a mulch layer.

“An inch or two of an organic mulch, straw, shredded newspaper, composted grass clippings can do a wonderful job at conserving moisture so you don’t have to water as often,” says Haynes. “Mulch also does a great job of preventing weed competition for water and nutrients so you don’t have to hand-weed as often.”

2. Build a dense layer of compost

Photo by The Gardener of Urban

Composting is a natural way of recycling organic matter—like leaves and food scraps—into fertilizer that can benefit soil and plants.

“No matter what the environment is, blending the soil with compost, natural fertilizers, and then covering with mulch will help plants thrive with minimal water usage,” says Joe Raboine, director of residential hardscapes with Belgard. “The compost and mulch will break down and also foster healthy bacteria/microorganisms in the natural soil biome.”

3. Water only when needed

Photo by Jonathan Raith Inc.

“Some soils will hold on to more water than others. Therefore, you might not need to water as often,” says Haynes. “Check the soil, and if the top inch or two is dry, then it might be time to water.”

And make sure to water between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m., recommends Bob Westerfield, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension consumer horticulturist with the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Watering during this time frame will minimize evaporation that will happen if you water during the day.

And be thorough with your watering technique. The key is to penetrate the soil 4 inches deep or so. Water only the roots, not the leaves, since it’s the roots that absorb water.

“Water on the leaves is often wasteful—it usually evaporates—and can help spread disease,” says Haynes. “Sometimes, this means using a soaker hose or drip irrigation to water larger areas. This could also mean just doing a better job when hand-watering the root system and avoiding getting the leaves wet.”

4. Use drip irrigation

Photo by Jackie and the Beanstalk

Drip irrigation provides small quantities of water and helps conserve soil nutrients and minimize water waste.

Chris Gorne, aka the Plant Dr. on Thumbtack, says a drip system is the best method for saving water while caring for your vegetable garden.

“These systems can help you save up to 90% of water when compared to a standard sprinkler system,” says Gorne. “A drip system waters directly to the plant’s roots, which results in overall stronger growth.”

The typical drip system puts out about 0.9 gallons of water per hour, Gorne says. That’s significantly less than a standard sprinkler system, which puts out about 30 gallons of water per hour.

“Some folks also use 1-gallon milk jugs filled with water and a few holes punched in the bottom. Kind of a minidrip system,” says Westerfield.

5. Capture rainwater

Photo by Carolle Huber Landscape Architecture

It might seem a bit old-fashioned, but collecting rainwater provides a valuable resource you can use on your crops.“Consider collecting water in a rain barrel or something similar,” says Haynes. “Then you have a great and free water resource—even if you only have enough to water vegetables in containers.”

 

Anayat Durrani is a freelance education reporter for U.S. News and World Report. Her work has been featured in Military Officer, California Lawyer, the American Scholar, and PracticeLink magazines.

Have You Done These 6 Summer Maintenance Tasks That Could Save You Money?

The dog days of summer are here, are you ready? Here are some summer maintenance tasks you should tackle around your home to save you some cash.

by realtor.com

In between barbecues and beach days, you still need to stay on top of maintenance around the house. Otherwise you might find yourself with big problems down the line—and big repair costs.

Power-wash your house

One way to bring your home back to its former glory is to power-wash it. Power-washing your home really gives the exterior a good cleaning, washing off any cobwebs, mold and mildew. It can help catch problems early on too! A dirty exterior can sometimes mask issues with the siding of your house that need to be repaired and it can extend the life of it. Power-washing your home has been known to pay off big time when it comes time to selling your house. But whether you're staying or selling, it makes a huge difference in your curb appeal. 

Tune up your air conditioner

HVAC Pros suggest bi-annual service checks. Between service visits, you can look for leaks in the hoses inside and outside and make sure you change the filter on your ac unit every three months. Also, be sure there's no debris or vegetation close to the outside compressor.

Properly close and lock windows

Before the air conditioner goes on, be sure to properly close and lock windows. Remember, weather seal isn't just for winter. Sealing your windows will help to keep the cool air in, the hot air out and keep your energy bills lower.

Changing direction of your ceiling fan can make a big difference

Flip the motor switch so the blades spin counter clockwise in summer drawing the warm air up. In the winter, let it spin clockwise forcing the warm air down.

Spruce up your home's exterior

Check your landscaping for overgrown trees and shrubs, fertilize and dethatch your lawn. This will help your greens be healthier longer saving you more green by not replacing your landscaping.

Check the gutters and roof

Finally, check your gutters and roof. Make sure the gutters are working properly so the rain doesn't lead to foundational flooding. Check that your downspouts are free flowing and that the gutters are not pulling away from the house. If you can safely do so, check to be sure there's no storm damage to the roof... look for missing, loose or damaged shingles or leaks.

Tackle this short to do list to keep your home looking and feeling cool all summer. Maintaining your home is an investment worth making!

The Key Home Features That Could Boost Your Home's Sellability in 2022

Homeowners looking to sell in 2022 might be in for a pleasant surprise if their homes have a few key features.

CREDIT: KIP DAWKINS

By Kristine Gill

According to a study by Angi, the home services site connecting homeowners to pros, there are some features that can boost your home's sale price by as much as 3.2%, attracting buyers and encouraging them to spend a bit more on the property. A recent analysis from Angi highlights the home features—think walk-in closets, pot fillers, and kitchen islands—that could heighten buyer interest this year.

Even if these features don't boost property values, they can be the key to a quicker sale. Read on to see what real estate agents say buyers are looking for in their potential homes.

Hard-Working Home Features 

The Angi study was conducted by poring over tons of property listings to see which features in homes (and outdoors) garnered extra cash or interest for the seller.

"This study looked at features listed on various authoritative sites as well as more than 250,000 house listings on Zillow from across the U.S. We looked at their listing descriptions, rather than the photos, and the various features listed under the 'Interior Features' and 'Overview' sections," says Bailey Carson, a home care expert at Angi.

Angi's analysis zeroed in on a key feature in each of 40 metropolitan areas, assessing which offered the most value.

In California's San Francisco/Oakland/Berkeley region, a swimming pool upped the house price by 11.35%. But in the New York/Newark/Jersey City region, it was a garage that topped the list, raising prices an average of 18.47%.

Elsewhere, fireplaces, high ceilings, granite countertops, and fences brought in the most for sellers. Carson says that, if you're looking to add features to your home, you can think about the features on the list in your area or take a more holistic approach to the home and the space available.

"In determining which features are a good investment for your region, think about practicality and use of space," she says. "Is it something that improves the quality of life in your home? Does it make use of previously under-utilized space? Does it fit the climate where you live? Does it fit the rest of the house? Those questions, and thoughtful conversations with your contractor and realtor, can help you determine the specific features that will give you the most return on investment."

Keep in mind too that the study stressed correlation over causation, meaning it's not guaranteed that adding or having these features is the reason the homes were listed at higher prices: The data only reveals which features were common among higher-priced homes. Still, if your home has highly sought-after features, you may get a little more buyer interest when it's time to sell.

Regional Appeal 

Certain highlights topping the list were region-specific.

"Some features are appealing regardless of location, while others will be more desirable in certain climates, like a fireplace or hot tub," Carson says. "If you live somewhere with consistently warm weather, you're likely better off investing in a more region-friendly feature like a patio, deck, or pool."

The study also took a big picture–look at which features brought in the highest prices across the country. That list highlights just 10 features, beginning with a pot filler for a 3.2% boost, followed by pendant lighting, under-cabinet lighting, and double sink vanities. The full list also included double ovens, patios, garages, and walk-in closets.

"Closet space is always a big plus," says Frank Jacovini, a Philadelphia-based real estate broker. "It's not a priority, but if there's no closets or they're very limited, that is a turn-off. [Potential home buyers] like at least one closet in each bedroom and hopefully a bigger closet in the main bedroom."

"Granite is a plus," he adds. "Some people have something more fancy, like concrete or marble, but you have to at least have granite."

And not all features will upgrade your particular home. In the Louisville, Kentucky/ Jefferson, Indiana, area for example, kitchen islands are a bonus. But as Jacovini points out, islands take up precious kitchen space in the townhomes he sells in Philadelphia, and that can be a turn-off for buyers.

CREDIT: KRITSADA PANICHGUL

Working with What You Have 

As Jacovini points out, coveted features vary by metropolitan area, so a pot filler in Philadelphia might not get you what a swanky garage would.

If you're looking at your listing (real or imagined) and wondering whether your home has what it takes to lure in buyers, don't stress, he says. Most buyers are simply looking for move-in ready homes with some modern updates.

"Years ago, a first-time buyer wouldn't mind buying a fixer-upper. It's really move-in condition now, rehabbed homes, that are selling. Homes that need updating are kind of languishing on the market," Jacovini says. "Today the millennial buyer just wants a wow-factor. They want to see hardwood floors, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, finished basement, sheetrock walls with nice lighting and fixtures."

If your home doesn't meet this criteria, Jacovini usually suggests fresh paint throughout the home and a freshly painted front door to boost curb appeal.

Carson says that simply inserting a key feature into your home won't necessarily increase the price on its own, either. What's most important is the overall quality of the property and the care taken to keep it updated and in good shape.

"It is important to note that, while a pot filler can be great, it won't distract prospective buyers from chipping paint, a broken HVAC system, or old, stained carpeting," she says. "It's crucial to prioritize any outstanding maintenance or repair projects first, bringing your home up to date and getting it ready for its next owners. Then you can think about the add-ons that can give your home that extra something special."

Carson suggests projects with a better return on investment, such as replacing garage doors, remodeling kitchens and bathrooms, and adding a deck or master suite to your home. You can also see returns when you replace your roof or windows.

And if your home does have these features, play them up in your listing to lure buyers.

"The list could also be useful for better understanding the current buyer and the different features they find desirable in a home," Carson says. "This can help with staging as well as developing flyers and other materials that can highlight these features for prospective buyers."

 

Kristine Gill is a former newspaper reporter who spent five years as a spokesperson for a law enforcement agency. She writes about homes and real estate for Better Homes & Gardens. 

7 Outdoor Updates That Can Add Major Value to Your Home

Selling your home? The experts at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate say these projects make the best outdoor investments.

By Jessica Bennett and Kit Selzer

A home's value is highly dependent on its square footage, number of rooms, and other interior features, but what's outside counts, too. Having a well-maintained yard, an attractive exterior, and functional outdoor living spaces can all add up to a big boost in value. And it's often the small details that make the biggest difference to a potential home buyer. 

If you're looking to increase your home's sellability, tackling a few simple projects can help your home make a good impression without having to do a complete exterior overhaul. And if you're not ready to sell quite yet, investing in outdoor upgrades you can enjoy now often produces a high return on investment later. We spoke with experts from Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate to determine the best outdoor updates to boost home value. Start with these projects to revamp your exterior and build equity at the same time.

CREDIT: DAVID TSAY

1. Make your yard more functional. 

Adding function to your backyard is one of the best things you can do to boost home value, says Jessica Poulos, owner of the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Northwest Home Team in Tumwater, Washington. "Can you entertain? Can your kids play? Can you exercise? Can you tinker on hobbies or in a garden?" Use landscaping, hardscaping, outdoor furniture, and other add-ons to create zones that can accommodate various outdoor activities.

CREDIT: KIM CORNELISON

2. Clean up the exterior. 

As the first thing potential buyers see when they pull up to your home, the exterior needs to appear clean and well-maintained. "If a buyer drives up to a home and the yard is neglected, they will begin to think it's too hard to take care of," Poulos says. "First impressions are everything." Prep your home to show with simple spruce-ups like pressure-washing the driveway, cleaning the roof, mowing the lawn, and adding edging around flower beds. These easy projects can often make a big difference in your home's perceived value. 

3. Attach an outdoor living space. 

When it comes to outdoor living, easy access is key. According to a recent survey from Rocket Homes, an attached outdoor living space, such as a deck or porch, can add almost $20,000 to the value of a home. Consider your area's climate and weather patterns to determine which type of outdoor space might bring the biggest boost. For example, in the Pacific Northwest where rain is common, "a covered porch with an outdoor kitchen, dining area, or sitting area has a high return on a home's value," Poulos says. In sunnier climates, an attached deck with a pergola can offer valuable open-air living space that provides some relief from the harsh sun.

CREDIT: GREG SCHEIDEMANN

4. Simplify your landscaping. 

Most buyers want low-maintenance plantings. Hosta and daylilies are hearty perennial options for simple landscaping. Putting down mulch or groundcover also makes for easy upkeep. If you want to go with something temporary, put colorful annuals in pots. Add mulch, pull weeds, and trim hedges around the yard for a clean and effortless look.

5. Fix damaged siding. 

Residing can be a long and often pricey process. Show buyers that your siding is in good shape by repairing any cracks, missing pieces, and surface chips. For a fresh look without painting, consider a professional pressure wash. If the exterior is brick, fix thinning areas of mortar.

CREDIT: PETER KRUMHARDT

6. Dress up your front door. 

A new coat of paint in a color other than white or black can make the front door memorable for potential buyers. Go with a color that stands out, but also complements the style of the home. Replace the handle if it's tarnished or looks dated. Spray paint the handle if it just needs a quick update. Accessories like door numbers and knockers give a welcoming feeling, so play up the hardware.

CREDIT: KIM CORNELISON

7. Repair windows. 

Even a little damage to one window gives the impression that there could be more problems. A few quick fixes will reassure buyers that the windows are nothing to worry about. Fix caulking around frames and glazing on panes for a like-new look. Replace cracked or foggy windows to make the best impression. If there are built-in window boxes, repair them and give them a fresh coat of paint. Then fill with pretty annuals.

 

Courtesy Better Homes & Gardens

Jessica Bennett is the digital assistant home editor at Better Homes & Gardens. With a knack for writing and editing, she covers decorating, home improvement, cleaning, organizing, and more for BHG.com.

Kit Selzer is senior remodeling and projects editor for Better Homes & Gardens magazine. She has more than 30 years of experience covering building and remodeling topics, especially kitchen and bath design and do-it-yourself. 

Don't Cut Corners on These 6 Things When Renovating Your Home

A home renovation is expensive, and it’s tempting to want to do projects yourself or hire contractors on the cheap. Or you might just want to put off the whole thing.

By Ana Durrani

A survey from Consumer Affairs found that the average homeowner waits 10 months to make a critical repair. But cutting corners on certain renovation projects—or putting them off altogether—can end up creating bigger problems and cost you even more in the long run.

Whether it’s choosing cabinets that’ll add value to your kitchen or investing in quality windows, here are the top renovation projects you should never skimp on.

1. Kitchen drawers and cabinets

Photo by Fisher Gross Kitchen & Bath Studio

Well-made kitchen cabinets will stand the test of time and impress future buyers (should you decide to sell your home down the line).

“When viewing a home, buyers often touch the kitchen drawers and cabinets,” says Michele Dugan, a real estate agent with Realty ONE Group. “They are inspecting them to see the quality the seller chose, and will gauge the rest of the renovations on that choice. If there is a high quality of cabinetry selections, chances are the rest of the house will also be of a high grade.”

2. Plumbing work

Photo by Nunley Custom Homes

Shoddy plumbing work can come back to bite you in some of the worst possible ways: mold behind walls, messed up flooring, water leaks. Always hire a licensed plumber with good references, and don’t buy cheap pipes, faucets, and fixtures.

Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing, says people who don’t understand the complexities of plumbing might choose a fixture that doesn’t have the proper drain P-trap or an improperly vented fixture. Both of these mistakes could lead to a sewer gas leak or a line clog.

3. Permits

Photo by Krownlab

There’s no getting around it: Permitting your home renovations is a pain. You have to deal with county regulations and inspections that might increase your property taxes.

“They definitely delay the building process as you have to schedule the building inspector at various stages of the project, and that means holding up the build,” says Trish Morgan Tilley of Sisters Selling Vegas with Realty ONE Group.

But do not skimp on getting permits. Doing so can cause all kinds of problems in the long run. If you decide to sell your home, you will have to spend time and money to permit the work and redo improvements that aren’t up to code.

4. Electrical work

Photo by Inplace Studio

Let’s make this as clear as we can: Electrical work is not something you should try to do yourself. Got that?

“Not only is working on electrical systems dangerous, but completing the work incorrectly can have catastrophic consequences down the road,” says Ben Kolo, owner of Mr. Electric of Central Iowa.

Cutting corners on electrical work can create problems like shorting out circuits or lights that flicker and could lead to a fire or explosion.

“In many instances, work completed near or around the sale of a home is required to include documentation proving a licensed electrician completed the work,” says Kolo. “It’s best to leave electrical work to the experts.”

5. Buying and installing windows

Photo by Lucy Interior Design

Windows are a critical component when it comes to the insulation of your home.

“Homeowners should invest in quality windows that are energy-efficient and, depending on where you’re located, storm-resistant,” says Mitch Barton, director of product marketing at Leaf Home.

Older or less expensive windows can bring problems and may require investing in extra window coverings or solutions to add insulation, adds Barton.

“Windows incorrectly installed can lead to unwanted drafts and gaps and cause issues with the windows being able to operate normally,” says Brad Roberson, president of Glass Doctor.

Roberson recommends windows be professionally installed and be double-paned or meet Energy Star standards for energy efficiency.

6. Flooring installation

Photo by Monsen Collins Builders

Flooring is one of the things that define a home, so make sure to choose one that you can enjoy for years.

“There are budget-friendly hardwood options, like luxury vinyl flooring, that are fairly easy to install,” says DeLisa Dawkins, a real estate agent with Realty ONE Group Freedom in Greenville, SC.

But, just because you’ve opted to save on the cost of your flooring material doesn’t mean you should cut corners on the labor. Be sure to hire a licensed flooring professional for installation.

And if you decide to go with real hardwood, you definitely want to put the work in the hands of an experienced contractor. “Natural wood flooring is most pricey, especially with the cost of lumber, therefore professional installation is in order,” says Dawkins.

Courtesy realtor.com

Anayat Durrani is a freelance education reporter for U.S. News and World Report. Her work has been featured in Military Officer, California Lawyer, the American Scholar, and PracticeLink magazines.

 

5 Tips for Participating in "No Mow May" to Help Bees in Spring

What's the Buzz? Letting flowers in your lawn feed pollinators until other plants start blooming, that's what!

feeding pollinators in May

CREDIT: COURTESY OF ANNE READEL

by Anne Readel

What is No Mow May? 

The idea behind No Mow May is to leave your lawn alone for the month of May. This allows lawn flowers to bloom and feed hungry native bees emerging from hibernation when other flowers are scarce. Several studies done in areas of Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Massachusetts have shown that lawn flowers can support a high diversity of bees and other pollinators.

I learned about No Mow May when I was looking for ways to make my own yard more bee-friendly. I had recently read that one in four bee species in North America is at risk of extinction, in part because of habitat loss. Neatly kept lawns typically provide little food for bees but No Mow May made me realize that it doesn't have to be this way. I helped organize No Mow May in my own community and documented its rise in Wisconsin. As part of this effort, I spoke with bee experts, city officials, and residents. Here are the most helpful tips for making No Mow May a success that I learned along the way.  

Tips for Participating in No Mow May 

For some people, going a whole month without mowing their lawn can seem like a wild idea. When participating in No Mow May, you and your neighbors will have the most positive experience by following these tips: 

  1. Educate your neighbors. 

After a few weeks of not mowing, your neighbors are going to wonder about the long grass (and perhaps if you've moved away or died!). Free, print-at-home signs are available through the Xerces Society. There's even a kids' version that can be colored in so the whole family can be involved in helping the bees. Once your neighbors understand why you're letting your lawn get "weedy", they may even want to participate in No Mow May themselves.  

  1. Check your local rules. 

Many cities and homeowner associations (HOAs) restrict grass height to eight or ten inches. If grass height rules are in effect, you might end up getting fined if your lawn gets too tall. Find out if your city or HOA has any grass height rules before you participate in No Mow May.

  1. Involve your community leaders. 

Contact your city officials or HOA board members and ask them to adopt No Mow May in your community. Communities that adopt No Mow May will suspend enforcement of grass height rules for participating residents. And even if your community doesn't have grass height rules, an official endorsement may make other residents more comfortable with participating.  

Remember, even if your neighbors, city, or HOA do not embrace No Mow May now, they may warm to the idea over time. Ana Merchak, a resident of Stevens Point, Wisconsin participated in No Mow May last year. "Our lawn probably had the most dandelions in the neighborhood but a lot of people on our street and in the surrounding residential neighborhood were participating with us," says Merchak. "Now that it's more of a commonplace type of thing to participate in No Mow May, I don't think people look at our lawn like it's eyesore anymore and I certainly don't either." 

  1. Cut back your lawn gradually

Lawns can grow pretty shaggy after a month of not mowing. When it's finally time to mow, the best strategy is to reduce the height of your grass in stages. Paul Koch, an associate professor and turf grass extension specialist at the University of Wisconsin, explains that "you never want to remove more than one-third of the green leafy tissue at any one time." Depending on how tall your grass has gotten, it could take a few weekends with the mower to get back to your usual lawn height. "As long as you're taking care to go back down at a gradual level to normal mowing height, I don't think there are any long-term effects that you're going to have on the health of the lawn," says Koch.  

  1. Consider if "No Mow April" makes more sense. 

No Mow May is a catchy phrase. However, depending on where you live, it might make more sense to practice "No Mow March" or "No Mow April" instead. The idea is the same, though: Bees emerging in spring need food. So, whatever your climate, refrain from mowing when lawn flowers start blooming. 

CREDIT: COURTESY OF ANNE READEL

Create a Permanent Pollinator Garden 

No Mow May lasts one month, but there are many other ways you can help pollinators all year long.   

Manage your lawn as a "bee lawn.

Allow your lawn to flower throughout the growing season by raising your mowing height or mowing less often. "Just raising your mowing height to four or four-and-a-half inches really keeps the majority of flowering plants intact," explains Koch. One study also found that lawns mowed once every two weeks attracted more bees than lawns mowed every week.  

Another option is to reseed your lawn with a "bee lawn" seed mix, which combines turf grass with low-growing flowers, such as white clover and creeping thyme. This option may be more palatable to folks who don't like the look of dandelions or creeping Charlie. Over time, you might grow to appreciate the new wild aesthetic of your lawn and wonder why you ever did all that mowing in the first place.

Avoid pesticides and weed-killer. 

If you're trying to grow lawn flowers and feed the bees, avoid applying chemicals that will harm them. For example, "weed and feed" products will blitz your lawn flowers. And some products designed to kill grubs contain toxins that are deadly to bees and other pollinators, such as neonicotinoid insecticides.  

Grow native flowers. 

Think beyond the lawn and try some native plants in your beds and gardens. You'll be amazed at the variety and beauty of the plants from your area that bees and other pollinators love.

Even if No Mow May isn't possible for you, taking any of these steps can help both native bees and honeybees, as well as a variety of other important pollinators. If nothing else, you're sure to make a buzz!

 

Anne Readel is a writer and photographer with a Ph.D. in conservation biology. Her stories often highlight the incredible animals and plants that live in our own backyards. A believer in the power of stories to create change, Anne uses her writing and photography to promote conservation. Her work has been published in the New York Times, Audubon, and Better Homes & Gardens, among others.

 

How to Make Your House Look Expensive: 10 Sneaky Living Room Decorating Ideas

Wondering how to make your house look expensive? Well, next to the kitchen, the living room is arguably the most important room in the home. True to its name, it’s where life happens. It’s where guests gather, where you spend lazy evenings by the fire (or basking in the soft glow of Netflix—no judgment here), and, in most floor plans, one of the first spaces you see upon entering your home.

By Holly Amaya

Don’t you want your home to look luxurious? We thought so. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend busloads of cash to make it look like you spent a lot of money. We’ve consulted with our stable of design experts to uncover the sneakiest ways to create a plush-looking living space—all without emptying out your 401(k). In some cases, you won’t need to spend a thing! You’re welcome.

How to make your home look expensive? Check out the best living room decorating ideas

1. Incorporate layered lighting

Photo by Bravo Interior Design

“Lighting is one of the most important concepts in a space, and one that’s often overlooked,” says Jessica Davis, owner of JL Design Nashville.

You want to have a variety of light sources to add depth to the room. But you don’t have to empty your wallet to go glam on lighting. Davis loves hitting up Goodwill for lamp bases and Target for lampshades.

You could also hang a great pendant light in place of a traditional table lamp, says Christina Hoffmann, owner of luxury curated goods site Epitome Home. She also loves placing candles in pretty, reflective hurricane containers.

Another cheap trick that won’t require any labor: Try plug-in sconces, says Chicago-based interior designer Clare Barnes.

“Placing these next to furniture arrangements can be an affordable way to update a space without bearing the cost of rewiring a wall,” Barnes says. “Adding dimmer switches is another way to make a room feel expensive—this lets you adjust the lighting so a space feels warm and cozy.”

2. Add in textiles

Photo by Abbe Fenimore Studio Ten 25

“One of the easiest and best ways to dress up a room is with great pillows, “Hoffmann says. “But they can be soexpensive.”

Don’t fear—there’s a workaround: Hit up your local fabric store, where you can often find beautiful scraps for a discount—usually 60% to 90% off what it would cost if you purchased yardage off a bolt on the floor. Then find a tailor on Craigslist—Hoffmann estimates you can expect to pay $10 to $20 per pillow, depending on the size. You could also sew them yourself if you’re crafty. Pick up some feather inserts (Hoffmann loves Ikea’s) and you’re set! In the end, you can get a pillow that would easily retail for $100 or more for $30 or less.

Extra credit: If you find a remnant piece of fabric that’s 2 yards or longer, get an equivalent amount of a cheap, soft backing and make a throw.

“An oversized, beautiful throw casually draped in the room will make it feel more luxurious and expensive,” Hoffmann says.

3. Make sure your curtains hit the floor

Photo by Geoff Chick & Associates

A good window treatment can add instant luxe factor to a room, which is why it’s one of the best living room decorating ideas. But there’s one cardinal rule: Never, ever buy draperies that are too short.

“They look so cheap and store-bought,” Hoffmann says.

Make sure to measure the window before you head to the store. You could also make your own on the cheap—just pick up a sheer, lightweight cotton fabric, and take it to your tailor or dry cleaner.

“You’ve got beautiful, billowy drapes for less than $35 each,” Hoffman says.

She recommends Ikea for curtain rods and brackets: “They are basic black, inexpensive, and aren’t distracting or noticeable.”

4. Invest in large-scale art

Photo by Brendan Wong Design

Another great living room decorating idea? An oversize, attention-grabbing piece of art can both spark conversation and imbue your living space with an instantly cool, luxe feel.

Resist the urge to hit up Bed Bath & Beyond for an anonymous beachscape, though—experts agree that the best art has personal significance. Check out secondhand shops and estate sales for pieces with a backstory. If you’re on a budget, get creative and do it yourself (all you need is a giant canvas from an art supply store and the medium of your choice).

5. Don’t shy away from texture

Photo by Tara Benet Design

When in doubt, mix it up. Design experts recommend incorporating a variety of woods, glass, metals, and woven materials to create a look that’s collected, not matchy-matchy.

“The tactile feel of a wool sofa, the soft hand of a silk velvet pillow, or the supple texture of a quality leather are unmistakable luxury that you not only see but any guest can feel,” says Summer Thornton of Summer Thornton Design in Chicago.

If you’re on a budget, toss a faux-fur blanket or sheepskin throw on your couch, jazz up leather chairs with fun pillows in chunky knit cases, or incorporate brushed brass accent pieces on a reclaimed wood coffee table.

6. Roll out a large rug

Photo by WETSTYLE

Small rugs dwarf your rooms, Hoffmann says. So if you’re wondering how to make your house look expensive, opt for a larger, less expensive rug over a smaller, expensive one—especially if you have kids and pets, both of which can wreak havoc on wool rugs.

“When your room feels bigger and airier due to a larger rug, it will feel more expensive automatically,” Hoffman says.

And just because it looks luxe doesn’t mean it can’t be durable. Jute rugs are a great option, Hoffman says, and can often be found at discount home furnishings stores.

“They offer great texture and a grounded, earthy feel,” she says.

7. Use metallics

Photo by Heather Garrett Design

It turns out a little heavy metal never hurt anyone.

“A metallic desk clock, pedestal table, or decorative accent can instantly add wattage to a room and up your fancy quotient,” Hoffmann says.

“Adding a little bit of glitz and glam can really add wow factor,” Thornton adds. In her bag of tricks: high-gloss paint, metallic wallpaper, and light fixtures with metal finishes.

8. Replace or add moldings

Photo by AM Dolce Vita

“One of the easiest ways to make a home feel more expensive and luxurious is to improve its interior architecture,” Thornton says.

You don’t have to knock down any walls, though. If you have narrow baseboards and molding, replace them with something thicker to achieve a more elegant look. (Potential buyers will love it too.)

Similarly, it doesn’t cost much to add applied moldings (wainscoting, anyone?) to any wall to create more charm and character. If the idea of cutting into baseboards and walls makes you queasy, hire a pro.

9. Paint walls and trim the same color

Photo by Rachel Reider Interiors

This one’s simple: A couple of coats of paint can dramatically change your space. And here’s a fun trick: Barnes recommends painting your walls and trim the same color.

“Avoiding contrasting trim is easy on the eyes, adds more focus to decorative accents and accessories, and simplifies the room’s architectural details,” she says. “It also allows you to use a stronger color since the deeper hues will appear softer and a bit lighter.”

Alternatively, Barnes recommends painting doors and trim a dramatic color such as black. “This can help add interest to the space and enhance those architectural details,” she says.

10. Scour thrift stores for heirloom-quality pieces

Photo by Ruth Richards, Allied ASID

True life: As I struggled to decorate my new home, I found a gorgeous crystal decanter at a local thrift store for less than $10. A comparable piece sells at department stores for many times that, plus it lacks the mystique and (imagined) backstory.

“The inlaid wood of an old dresser, the unique shape of a vintage chandelier, and the patina on an antique metal cabinet are unmistakably beautiful, timeless, and never confused with something new from a catalog,” Thornton says.

Hoffmann likes to scour consignment and thrift stores for barware, glassware, mirrors, and art.

“If you hate the art but love the frame, buy it anyway and frame an unexpected object or black and white photos you can print yourself,” she says.

Don’t be afraid of mixing your antique-looking finds with your newer store-bought pieces—it’ll all come together for a collected, luxe vibe. We promise.

 

Courtesy of realtor.com®, Holly Amaya is a writer, lawyer, and communications strategist. She writes about real estate, legal, lifestyle, motherhood, and career issues.

8 Crucial Kitchen Improvements You Should Make Before Selling Your Home

Preparing to list your house? If you want to get top dollar, start sprucing up your kitchen now.

By Lauren Sieben

“The kitchen is often the centerpiece in a home and the place where most of the entertaining happens,” says Tony Rodriguez-Tellaheche, owner and managing broker of Prestige Realty Group in Miami. “Sellers should not cut corners.”

A killer kitchen is one of the best ways to sell your home. Before you list your place, start making some of these improvements to help swing buyers in the right direction.

1. Refresh your cabinets

If your cabinets are looking drab and dated but are still in good shape, you don’t need to replace them. Instead, pick up some good paint and brushes or a paint sprayer.

“Sometimes a quick ‘face-lift’ to the kitchen cabinets can go a long way,” Rodriguez-Tellaheche says. “Refinishing existing cabinets is more cost-effective than replacing them completely, and can make a big difference when updating a kitchen.”

Before you start putting down the dropcloths, be mindful of your color palette—you’ll want to stick with neutrals to appeal to most buyers.

“If cabinets are darker natural wood or a polarizing color, we recommend painting either soft white or greige,” says Julie Busby, founder of the Busby Group in Chicago.

2. Upgrade to quartz countertops

Photo by Marble of the World 

Today’s buyers aren’t so keen on granite, and they’re definitely not looking for laminate. If you splurge on one upgrade in the kitchen, make it quartz countertops.

“I recommend using quartz in the kitchen,” says Brad Whittaker, an agent with Realty ONE Group Pacifica in Longview, WA. “It is always a nice, hard surface, and there are so many designs and colors to choose from.”

Plus, quartz is more durable and environmentally friendly than other materials, which is especially important in a busy kitchen.

“More sellers are incorporating quartz into their kitchens than traditional material like marble, because it is less porous and therefore less likely to stain,” Rodriguez-Tellaheche says.

3. Update the lighting

Photo by Wynne Taylor Ford

If your light fixtures are old enough to vote or order a beer in a bar, it’s time to replace them (or at least give them a very thorough dusting).

Swap in new fixtures over the island and kitchen sink, or increase your kitchen’s appeal by installing recessed lighting on a dimmer.

“Under-counter lighting also adds a nice touch,” Rodriguez-Tellaheche says.

4. Invest in a good (quiet) dishwasher

If your appliances have seen better days, replacing them with midrange stainless-steel appliances is a safe bet, Whittaker says. Top-of-the-line appliances might not be worth the splurge—you won’t always see a return on that investment.

The one appliance that’s worth spending a little more? The dishwasher.

“Always spend good money on your dishwasher—$700 plus to make sure that it is quiet,” Whittaker says.

5. Bring in a crisp, new backsplash

Photo by Jessica Risko Smith Interior Design 

Installing a neutral, clean backsplash can win you points with prospective buyers.

“Backsplashes can make a huge difference,” Busby says. “If the current one is busy or dated-looking, we recommend going with a classic white subway tile or any other neutrally colored tile.”

Plus, a new backsplash paired with upgraded countertops “can even make dated appliances look more current,” says Simon Isaacs, broker and founder of Simon Isaacs Real Estate in Palm Beach, FL.

6. Brighten up the color palette

“Dark kitchen cabinets with dark granite is a thing of the past and can make a home hard to sell, especially to millennial buyers,” Rodriguez-Tellaheche says.

Aside from painting dark cabinets and replacing countertops, choose a bright, neutral paint color for the walls. A light color can also help make modest-size kitchens look a little more airy and spacious.

7. Add premium touches

Photo by Studio Dearborn 

Quarantine has turned many of us into home cooks, and that means buyers are looking for luxe touches throughout the kitchen where they’re spending more time than ever.

“Most of today’s buyers are self-proclaimed foodies and expect a well-thought-out kitchen,” Isaacs says. “Sophisticated wine fridges, filtered water spouts, and pot fillers are becoming the norm nowadays.”

Busby agrees: “If you have space for a beverage or wine cooler, buyers love this added bonus.”

8. Give the kitchen a serious deep clean

Nothing turns buyers off quicker than a kitchen with the “yuck” factor: food stains, filthy fridges, and even junked-up baseboards.

“Keep it clean, bright, and shiny,” Whittaker says. “There are lots of gloss surfaces in a kitchen, and to see them dull, scratched, scuffed, or chipped is a turnoff to most buyers.”

A sparkling-clean oven is also nonnegotiable, Whittaker adds.

“No one wants to bake inside your gunky oven,” he says. “Remember, if you want top dollar for your home, you need to sell it as if you have taken top-dollar care of it.”

 

Lauren Sieben is a writer in Milwaukee. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, Washington Post, Milwaukee Magazine, and other outlets.

The best time to list your home is only a few weeks away! Are you ready for #Listapalooza?

Let the Countdown to Realtor.com® Listapalooza Begin!

With strong buyer demand, high prices, quick sales and less seller competition, April 10-16 will be the sweet spot for sellers who want to put their home on the market this year.

Home sellers on the fence waiting for that perfect moment to sell should start preparations, because the best time to list a home in 2022 is approaching quickly. The week of April 10-16 is expected to have the ideal balance of housing market conditions that favor home sellers, more so than any other week in the year.

With 2022 anticipated to be a whirlwind year for buyers, it can be hard for sellers to know when the optimal time is to put a home on the market. Realtor.com® crunched the numbers in its fourth annual Best Time to Sell Report and found this year's best week to list nationwide is April 10-16. Sellers who list during this week – newly named Realtor.com® Listapalooza – will take advantage of the Spring buying season's top lineup of strong demand, high asking prices, quick home sales and less competition from other sellers.1

"Every year, to help sellers better navigate the spring buying season, we take a look at recent market conditions to determine the optimal week to put a home on the market. And that perfect moment is just weeks away for 2022 sellers, with data indicating that home prices and demand are rising earlier than in a typical year," said Realtor.com® Chief Economist Danielle Hale. "Homeowners who are thinking about selling this Spring still have time to get ready, with the majority of recently surveyed sellers indicating that listing preparations took 2-12 weeks. A good first step when selling your home is to understand your options, such as those available via the Realtor.com® Seller's Marketplace, and find the best approach based on your family's needs. This way, you'll be able to immediately start your listing process as soon as you're ready. Preparation is especially important this year, since market dynamics could shift quickly along with factors like rising mortgage rates, inflation and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine."

By listing April 10-16, sellers can expect a top lineup of Spring buying competition 
With buyer interest accelerating weeks before the usual start of the Spring buying season, getting a head start on the competition will likely pay off for 2022 sellers. Mortgage rates have been rising more quickly than expected, adding fuel to the fire for buyers hoping to find the right home and lock-in relatively affordable monthly payments. While a high number of home sales are expected throughout the Spring, Realtor.com® found that the seasonal sweet spot to list a home in 2022, or Realtor.com® Listapalooza, is April 10-16, based on:

  • Surging buyer demand: With buyer activity typically rising heading into the Spring, homes added to the market during the same week in 2021 received 29% more views on Realtor.com® than the average week in 2021 and 18.6% more interest than the average home listed in 2018-2021. As a result, sellers who list their homes during Listapalooza may be able to expect more offers and bidding wars, which can result in higher asking prices and a faster sale than later in 2022.

  • High home prices: Home prices already broke the 2021 record in February, accelerating earlier in the Spring buying season than in previous years. As a result, sellers who list from April 10-16 could secure asking prices that are 10.9% (+$39,000) higher than at the start of the year and 1.4% (+$5,000) above the average annual listing price, based on 2021 trends.

  • Fast-moving homes: So far in 2022, homes have been flying off the market at an increasingly fast pace, reflecting early signs of Spring seasonality. In fact, the year kicked off with the fastest-moving January ever (61 days), followed by even lower time on market in February (47 days). During the week of April 10, homes sold six days more quickly than the 2021 average and nearly a month faster than in 2019 (-27 days), before the onset of COVID.

  • Less competition from other sellers: With demand outpacing supply, inventory continues to fall short of previous years, but also reflects regular seasonal patterns. From April 10-16, there were fewer sellers with homes actively listed than in the average week in 2021 (-12.9%). With the number of for-sale home options available to buyers historically rising further into the year, seller competition will increasingly be a key factor to consider.

Key trends for sellers to watch moving further into the 2022 buying season
Sellers can generally expect to hold the upper hand when the right time for them comes along this Spring, as 2022 buyers have been largely accepting of higher asking prices and quick sales. Even so, sellers' odds of success are greater if they list during Listapalooza compared to later in the year, due to a number of shifting market dynamics. Some of the factors sellers should keep an eye on are:  

  • Buyers price sensitivity rises along with mortgage rates: Mortgage rates remained historically-low throughout 2021, giving home shoppers more flexibility to meet higher asking prices. However, mortgage rates have jumped significantly since the start of this year and are expected to continue rising, particularly with the Fed planning on an interest rate hike as soon as March. As buyers grapple with higher monthly costs, some may tighten their budgets or take a break from the market, resulting in cooling price trends. For instance, by early May in 2021, the number of sellers making price adjustments2 climbed by 17.8% from the start of the year.

  • New supply gives home shoppers more negotiating power: While supply will remain historically low relative to demand in 2022, buyers are expected to have more options later in the year. Builders are accelerating production and will begin to make progress against the new home supply gap. Additionally, new listings trends are improving in line with the typical seasonality, as warmer weather and upcoming summer breaks attract more homeowners into the market. Historically, by mid-August, the number of sellers with actively-listed homes increased 17.4% over the beginning of the year, which means more options for buyers and therefore more competition among sellers.

  • Sellers also buying face trade-offs: As conditions become more favorable for sellers, those who are also buying face a cart-before-the-horse dilemma: Holding out for peak asking prices on their listing could also mean paying a premium for the home they buy. Listing prices typically reach each year's highest level in the Summer, as they did in July of 2021. Realtor.com® analysis indicates a similar timeline in 2022, with historical data suggesting home prices will be up double-digits over the start of the year by late May (+12.3%). However, with new sellers historically rising 48.4% over the start of the year by late May, seller-buyers who delay also face more competition from other sellers and the possibility of missing out on buying opportunities.

"We all know that homes are selling lightning fast right now. But that doesn't necessarily mean your house will sell itself," said Rachel Stults, Managing Editor at Realtor.com®. "Before you list your home this spring—or any other time this year—make sure you've taken steps to get ready, including cleaning and decluttering, getting cost estimates on repairs you might need to make, and talking to agents to see who would be a good fit for your needs. No matter when you decide to list, whipping your home into shape beforehand will help you sell faster and for more money."

1 In this release, the 2022 Best Time to List week and related metrics are based on historical trends vs. forecasted projections. See more details in the methodology below.
2 In this release, price adjustments are defined as home listings that had their price reduced.

Methodology
Listing metrics (e.g. list prices) from 2018-2019 and 2021 were measured on a weekly basis, with each week compared against a benchmark from the first full week of the year. Averaging across the years yielded the "typical" seasonal trend for each metric. Percentile levels for each week were calculated along each metric (prices, listings, days on market, etc.), and were then averaged together across metrics to determine a Best Time to List score for each week. Rankings for each week were based on these Best Time to List scores.

Please note: The Realtor.com® Listapalooza described in this release is based on the national best week to list, which overlaps with 31 of the 50 largest U.S. metros (see details here).

About Realtor.com®
Realtor.com® makes buying, selling, renting and living in homes easier and more rewarding for everyone. Realtor.com® pioneered the world of digital real estate more than 25 years ago, and today through its website and mobile apps offers a marketplace where people can learn about their options, trust in the transparency of information provided to them, and get services and resources that are personalized to their needs. Using proprietary data science and machine learning technology, Realtor.com® pairs buyers and sellers with local agents in their market, helping take the guesswork out of buying and selling a home. For professionals, Realtor.com® is a trusted provider of consumer connections and branding solutions that help them succeed in today's on-demand world. Realtor.com® is operated by News Corp [Nasdaq: NWS, NWSA] [ASX: NWS, NWSLV] subsidiary Move, Inc. For more information, visit Realtor.com®.

 

Media Contact
rachel.conner@move.com 

SOURCE Realtor.com

Graphics Courtesy; Listapalooza infographic

One of the Oldest and Most Respected Real Estate Firms in the Lakes Region

Cindy Melanson, Broker, 603-651-7228

Melanson Real Estate, Inc.

34 North Main Street

Wolfeboro, New Hampshire

 

 

Put Down the Mug: Green Drinks for St. Patrick's Day That Aren't Beer

St. Patrick's Day is the perfect excuse to party in the middle of March. There's no better time to sip a green drink. From nonalcoholic drinks like smoothies and mojito mocktails and more, here's a lineup of delicious St. Patrick's Day drink ideas.

 

Mint Matcha Milk Shake

Combine matcha powder with mint chip ice cream and almond milk for a slightly healthier version of your favorite seasonal mint shake. Use a shamrock cookie cutter to create the adorable matcha powder shamrock that sits on top of a dollop of whipped cream. Matcha tea has a number of health benefits, and also includes caffeine so we don't recommend making these shakes as a bedtime snack!

CREDIT: CARSON DOWNING

Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

 

Directions

Instructions Checklist

  • Whisk together 1 tablespoon matcha powder and 1/2 cup milk or almond milk until no lumps remain.

  • In a blender combine matcha mixture, 1 pint slightly softened mint-chocolate chip ice cream, and 3 tablespoons choped fresh mint; cover and blend until combined. Top with whipped cream and, if desired, dust with additional matcha powder.

* For a shamrock on top, lightly place a 1 3/4-inch shamrock-shaped cookie cutter on top of the whipped cream. Lightly sift matcha powder inside the cutter. Gently lift cutter away.

 

Honeydew-Basil Nojitos

Fill sugar-rimmed glasses to the brim with fresh basil leaves, lime juice, and sweet honeydew melon. Slice into spears or use a melon baller ($11, Target) to make perfectly rounded honeydew balls for a green St. Patrick's Day drink garnish.

CREDIT: BLAINE MOATS

Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

  •  

Directions

Instructions Checklist

  • In a large pitcher, combine basil leaves, lime juice, and granulated sugar. Using a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon, mash ingredients together well, making sure most of the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

  • Place about one-fourth of the melon cubes in a food processor or blender. Cover and process or blend until smooth. Press puree through a fine-mesh sieve; discard solids. Repeat with the remaining melon cubes, one-fourth at a time (you should have 4 cups total juice). Add melon juice to the pitcher.

  • If desired, rub a lime wedge around rims of eight glasses and dip rims in superfine sugar. Fill glasses with ice. Pour juice mixture into ice-filled glasses. If desired, add a splash of carbonated water to each glass. If desired, add melon spears or balls to each glass. Serve immediately.

 

Minted Cucumber Nojitos

Time to pucker up! This minty St. Patrick's Day mocktail features a double dose of lip-smacking lemon: a squeeze of lemon juice and icy-cold lemonade. Slices of cucumber make a refreshing (and green!) garnish.

CREDIT: BLAINE MOATS

Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

  •  

Directions

Instructions Checklist

  • In a large pitcher, combine lemon juice and lime juice; add mint leaves and Simple Syrup. Using a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon, crush leaves and stir together well. Add cucumber and ice. Pour lemonade and club soda into pitcher. Serve immediately.

 

Pineapple-Spinach Smoothies

Start your St. Patrick's Day with a refreshing pineapple smoothie. The drink gets its green hue from fresh spinach and its creamy texture from Greek yogurt. Top the finished drink with a sprinkle of chia seeds.

CREDIT: BRIE PASSANO

Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

  •  

Directions

Instructions Checklist

  • Place all ingredients in a blender in the order given. Cover and blend until smooth. Pour into glasses.

 

Melon-Basil Prosecco Sparklers

This St. Patrick's Day drink idea gets plenty of sparkle from bubbly prosecco. Top each glass with fresh mint and melon for a light and sweet green cocktail. This green goddess of a cocktail deserves all the attention it can get!

CREDIT: MATTHEW CLARK AND HANNAH BIGOT

Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist

  • In a food processor combine half of the melon chunks and the 1/2 cup basil. Cover and process until smooth. Set a large sieve over a large bowl. Pour pureed melon into sieve. Repeat with the remaining melon chunks; pour into sieve. Cover and place in the refrigerator about 1 hour to allow melon mixture to drain.

  • Using the back of a large spoon, press melon pulp through sieve, draining additional liquid (you should have about 3 1/2 cups liquid). Discard solids.

  • For each drink, fill a cocktail shaker three-fourths full with ice. Add 1/3 cup melon liquid. Cover and shake until the outside of the shaker becomes frosty. Strain into a chilled glass. Slowly pour in 1/3 cup Prosecco; stir gently. If desired, add a melon slice and/or additional basil.

 

Courtesy Better Homes & Gardens, Sarah Martens

Sarah Martens is the digital holidays and entertaining editor at Better Homes & Gardens where she has a pulse on all things worth celebrating. 

Regret Buying Your Home During the Pandemic? How To Bounce Back

We’ve all bought things we regret, but if there’s one purchase you don’t want to get wrong, it’s a home. Once you’re in, you’re in—no return policies allowed.

(Getty Images)

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted thousands of Americans to move and buy a new home. You’re probably familiar with some of the forces at work: People in cities wanted to have more room, maybe even a yard. Working remotely meant many would need a home office, or could move out of commuting distance entirely. Some who lost their jobs went searching for locations with a cheaper cost of living. Others moved closer to relatives, seeking comfort via proximity to their clan.

All told, these factors conspired to put a whole lot of homebuyers in motion, some even purchasing new abodes sight unseen.

For many, this leap of faith into unknown environs turned out great. Yet as we slowly emerge from the pandemic, stories have been swirling about people who actually wished they’d stayed put and hadn’t moved at all.

Entering the valley of buyer’s remorse

Homebuyer regrets assume many shapes and forms, depending on the reason people picked up and moved in the first place. Urbanites who moved to a more rural setting may have ended up bored, missing the bustling cafes and nightlife only a city can offer. Those who moved close to family may have quickly lost enthusiasm for their in-laws “dropping by” whenever they felt like it. Folks who bought a home way out of commuting distance may be dealing with a “come back to the office” command from their employers, setting themselves up for a soul-draining commute.

Further compounding this regret could be the high price they paid for their new house, especially since many markets across the U.S. have been experiencing record highs.

“Many people have experienced some form of buyer’s remorse, especially those who paid well over asking price during the pandemic,” says Jason Gelios, a real estate agent with Community Choice Realty in Birmingham, MI, and author of “Think Like a Realtor.”

“The pandemic had many homebuyers making an emotional purchase at the drop of a hat, because the competition was so fierce, not remembering that purchasing a home is a big decision that should not be rushed into,” adds Gelios.

Desperate to persuade sellers to accept their offer over others, many buyers also failed to do their due diligence on the property, which came back to haunt them later.

“In this seller’s market, many buyers have had to waive home inspections or limit it to health and safety items only,” says Elizabeth Sugar Boese, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Realty in Boulder, CO. “Then the new homeowners are shocked by the expenses to repair or maintain their home, causing many to regret the purchase.”

Or even if they were aware of problems, many buyers just didn’t take them seriously.

“Many homeowners do not understand what mold is, what water damage is, or what termite/wood rot is before they purchase,” says Jameson Tyler Drew, president of Anubis Properties in Whittier, CA. “They end up walking into a landmine and not realizing it until four months after the purchase.”

Now what? What to do if you regret a home purchase

If you’re one of those unlucky folks mired in homebuyer remorse, chin up—you are not stuck! While leaving a property purchase behind isn’t as easy as ditching a rental, there are still ways to reverse course.

Renovate your place to your tastes: Have you seen just how astoundingly different a home can look after those makeovers on reality TV? This should give you hope that, if you like the neighborhood but have grown to hate the house, you can renovate your way to something that works for you.

Even if this home purchase has left you financially tapped out, some financial assistance in the form of a loan or grant could be hiding nearby.

“Check with your bank to see if they are offering any programs offering financial assistance,” says Chantay Bridges, senior real estate expert at EXP Realty. The programs often cater to first-time homebuyers, teachers, firefighters, and other workers who benefit the community.

“While you are on a hunt, don’t forget to speak to your tax professional,” Bridges adds. “There could be tax deductions for home renovations.”

Doing a little homework can open doors to salvaging your investment and making you much more comfortable at home.

Relist it: Even if this hot market forced you to make a home purchase you regret, the good news is that the market’s still hot. So even if you haven’t lived there for long, your home may have already appreciated in value, with plenty of buyers eager to move in there next.

“The market is still a seller’s market, and you could relist and sell for probably more than you purchased it for,” says Boese.

Even with mortgage interest rates rising, demand is still outstripping the supply of homes for sale—especially right now.

“The first half of the year will be tighter with more bidding wars than the second half,” says Tami Bonnell, co-chair of EXIT Realty Corporate International.

You can get an estimate of your home’s value through an online home value estimator. But just be sure to account for the costs of selling a house, including a listing agent’s real estate commission and closing costs. Even if you take a slight loss on the sale, it might be worth it if you really want to get out of there.

Rent it out: If you don’t like the place but aren’t ready or able to sell it, renting it out can be a solution, at least for a time.

The rental market is on overdrive in many places, just like the home-selling sector. Also, as the pandemic winds down, people are traveling more, upping the demand for short-term stays. Whether you look for a long-term tenant or take the short-term route, this path will bring in income that you can use to pay bills as you move elsewhere.

“Renting a home on Airbnb has become really popular over the last several years,” says Josh Trubow, a certified financial planner and senior financial adviser at Sensible Financial. “However, managing an Airbnb can be a full-time job, especially if you do not live in or near the property. Property managers can help handle some of the hassle, but you should then expect to give up 15% to 25% of the income.”

You will also need to carefully track income and expenses, possibly working with an accountant to make sure you are well-prepared come tax time.

 

Courtesy realtor.com®

Janet Siroto is a journalist, editor, and trend tracker. Her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, and other publications.

 

Comments

  1. Cliff Homes on

    Home buy and sale is a perfect example of how demand in our market has soared in this high-end range with homes that have been on the market for quite some time all of the sudden being snatched up. Thank for sharing the post and information.

    Wood-Look Tile vs. Wood: Which Type of Flooring Is Better?

    If you love the look of hardwood flooring but not the cost, then wood-look tile is a trendy alternative. Here’s more on the pros, cons, and costs.

    alfexe/iStock

    By Kayleigh Roberts

    What is wood-look tile? Well, it’s pretty much what it sounds like: tile that looks an awful lot like wood, at least from a distance. Up close, you can tell it’s not real wood, but wood-look tile is nonetheless trending now and comes with some unique advantages.

    Here’s everything you need to know about wood-look tile to determine whether it’s the right flooring for you.

    Photo by Stonica LLC

    Wood-look tile vs. wood: How much does each cost?

    Wood-look tile (which can also go on walls, like in bathrooms) comes in ceramic and porcelain. According to online estimates from FloorCritics.com, ceramic tile runs between $2 and $8 per square foot on average, while porcelain averages anywhere from $4 to $12, with installation averaging around $5 per square foot.

    In comparison, real hardwood flooring costs an average $5 to 10 per square foot with installation running an additional $4 to $8 per square foot.

    Photo by Mary Cook 

    Pros of wood-look tile

    The biggest and most obvious advantage of wood-look tile for most homeowners is the cost. In most cases, tile is significantly cheaper than a traditional hardwood floor. But there are other advantages, too. Homeowners looking to refurbish a property in a humid climate, for example, should consider wood-look tile.

    Photo by Synergy Design & Construction 

    “In Florida, we saw this trend starting in 2014,” explains Kurt M. Westfield, managing partner at WC Equity Group. “Florida features moist, humid climates and pests that can wreak havoc on improperly installed natural wood or laminate. Tile is simple to install, waterproof, and gives the appearance that many are seeking, without the cost and care associated with wood.”

    Wood-look tile may also be a good option for people with allergies, since tile doesn’t harbor allergens the way carpets and even hardwood can. It’s also great for pet owners. Hardwood is more durable in many ways, but tile stands up to scratches from the paws of furry friends better than wood.

    Photo buy Johnson + McLeod Design Consultants 

    Cons of wood-look tile

    Like any other tile, wood-look tile will have grout lines, which require special care if you want to keep them looking clean and pristine.

    “As a builder, we encourage homeowners to seal the grout after they move in,” explains Amy Cooper, marketing manager for Highland Homes in Lakeland, FL. Generally wood-look tile can be swept and vacuumed prior to wet mopping, although you should avoid cleaners with acid, bleach, or harsh scouring aids.

    Other downsides include issues that come with any kind of tile, like its tendencies to feel cold on bare feet and get slippery when wet. And while wood-look tile is durable and will last a long time—typically decades—hardwood could last a lifetime if well-kept.

    “Real hardwood will always be a highly desired amenity, not only for appearance but for longevity—it can be sanded down, regraded, stained, and even covered in tile or carpet,” Westfield explains.

    Another consideration is that wood-look tile may be cheaper, but typically does not add resale value to a home. Westfield agrees that real hardwood will always win in terms of long-term value, but if you want to cut costs upfront, wood-look tile is your ticket.

    Photo by Giffin & Crane General Contractors, Inc.

     

    Courtesy realtor.com® 

    Kayleigh Roberts is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in The Atlantic, Marie Claire, and Elle, among other publications.