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9 Thanksgiving Traditions That Many People Have Forgotten About Today

Now that Halloween is behind us, it's time to look forward to the upcoming festive holidays. Thanksgiving is just around the corner, two weeks from today in fact. It may look a bit different this year due to the Coronavirus but it's still the same old Thanksgiving holiday or is it?

by Jess Catcher, Writer for Little Things

Every year, families gather together to enjoy a huge feast of savory dishes and sweet treats to celebrate Thanksgiving. However, over time, the traditional holiday has begun to look much different than it did back in the day. I don’t mean the original meal between the Pilgrims and Native Americans in 1621, but the classic customs from our parents and grandparents that somehow stopped being passed down somewhere along the way. Thinking back on my own childhood turkey days spent at my grandma’s house, I can’t help but feel like it’s a darn shame that so many of the simple things listed below just aren’t done as often anymore. After all, the shindig is about so much more than just what’s on your plate — it’s about acknowledging the blessings we’ve received over the months since we last gathered around the table together.

1. Retelling The Original Thanksgiving Story

We learn the basics in school, but families used to enjoy brushing up on all the fun facts about our ancestors’ first time sitting together at the table for their big fall harvest meal. Sharing Thanksgiving trivia with the rest of the brood was almost like a fun game!

For example, did you know they didn’t even have turkey on the menu that day? Instead, they dined on items like venison, duck, and even fresh oysters.

2. Adding A Festive Centerpiece To The Table

I can’t remember the last time I saw a beautiful centerpiece that wasn’t at a wedding reception, but you’d always see one on the Thanksgiving table way back when. You can have a blast crafting your own with your kids and grandkids chipping in!

3. Breaking Out The Good China

I’ll admit it: My family always uses paper plates for our feast in order to cut back on the dishes stacking up in the sink, but everyone used to reach for the fancy dinnerware, maybe even dressing up for the occasion with a nice tie or dress.

4. Using Quaint Place Cards

Even if it’s just a small gathering, this personal touch used to go a long way with helping guests feel extra special at the annual meal.

5. Playing Your Own Football Game

Instead of watching the same players face off on TV, families would spend the time waiting for their turkey by heading outside and working up an appetite with some friendly competition.

6. Splitting The Wishbone

Sure, it’s a silly superstition, but that’s what makes it so fun! As you can see in the retro snapshot above, it was especially delightful to the youngsters getting their first chance to make a wish.

7. Sharing What You're Thankful For

I know we’re all anxious to chow down on the delicious food, but don’t you remember when we all used to take a moment to look back on what we’re most grateful for since the previous Thanksgiving? I think this small gesture may have even made the food taste a little better.

8. Walking Off The Feast

Tons of us today are more tempted to slump down in a comfy chair and snooze for a bit. But not too long ago, families would spend more quality time together taking a walk and enjoying the fresh air while aiding their digestion.

9. Staying All Night (In Spite Of Sales)

In recent years, Black Friday has creeped into Turkey Day’s territory, not only forcing employees to leave their own meals early, but inspiring deal-seeking shoppers to ditch the dinner table before dessert is even served.

Enjoy Your Thanksgiving Everyone!

Enjoy Your Pumpkins Beyond Halloween

Pumpkins play an integral part of celebrating fall holidays. Artfully carved jack-o’-lanterns decorate our doorsteps, while whole pumpkins add a festive air to tabletops and other spots around our homes. Once Halloween has passed and Thanksgiving gives way to winter holidays, pumpkins often end up in the trash. But, instead of throwing them out, consider a number of ways you can reuse them. Here's how to give new life — even if only for a little while — to carved and whole pumpkins both indoors and outside.

By Noelle Johnson, Houzz Contributor, Horticulturist, freelance writer and Certified Arborist 

Carved jack-o’-lanterns as well as whole pumpkins can be used out in the garden and around the house once Halloween is over.

 

1. Decorate Outdoor Containers

Add distinctive seasonal flair to your containers by adding whole, uncarved pumpkins. Their vibrant skin will enliven outdoor spaces with color, whether used by themselves or nestled within flowering annuals and perennials.

 

2. Make a Bird Feeder

Cut your pumpkin in half, and fill with birdseed. Add some twigs for the birds to perch on and you’ll soon have feathered friends flocking for a snack. If there are still pumpkin seeds left, the birds will enjoy them too.

Smaller pumpkins also can be used as bird feeders. Clean out their insides, making a hole for the birds on the side. Fill the pumpkin with birdseed, and hang it from a nearby tree where you can observe.

 

3. Turn It Into a Planter

Create a natural container using your pumpkin. Be sure to remove any seeds and stringy bits, fill with potting soil and add a favorite succulent or flowering plant. Use your planter to decorate a tabletop or porch for a few days before planting the pumpkin in the ground — along with the plant inside — where the pumpkin will naturally disintegrate, enriching the soil.

 

4. Display in the Garden

Pumpkins’ distinct color and shape add a decorative autumn element to the landscape — especially when used in high-profile areas near a driveway or front entry. These should naturally disintegrate into the soil, if you want them to, but it’s best if they are best placed in an out-of-the-way spot for this. You could always dig a shallow hole to rest the pumpkin in.

 

5. Add To the Compost Pile

Not surprisingly, pumpkins are a great source of nutrients for compost. Cut up pumpkins into smaller sections to allow them to break down more quickly. Come spring, the pumpkin compost will add new life to your garden.

 

6. Feed the Deer

Those who grow pumpkins know that deer love to eat pumpkins. Provide them with a special fall treat by cutting your pumpkin into smaller pieces and scattering in an area, away from your garden, where they will enjoy eating them. Other furry visitors will also enjoy snacking on any leftovers.

 

 

7. Transform Into Candle Holders

All you need is a mini pumpkin and a tea light candle. Make a hole at the top of the pumpkin, slightly larger than the candle, and clean out the insides. The hole should be just deep enough for the candle to reach the top of the pumpkin. Insert the candle into the pumpkin, and light for festive decoration or a dinner for two.

  

8. Use as Serving Dishes

The shape of pumpkins make them a fun choice for a unique serving dish for the fall table. Smaller pumpkins make a good vessel for dips. 

9. Make Puree

Finally, no list of what to do with pumpkins is complete without talking about using them for delicious desserts like pumpkin pie and bread. Although pureed pumpkin is available in a can, it is easy to make your own, which you can use right away or freeze for later use.Don’t have a compost bin? Simply cut up your pumpkin and bury it where nearby plants will enjoy the phosphorus and other nutrients it will add to the soil.

 

5 Ways to Put Fall Leaves to Work for You!

After the leaves fall, it's time to rake them up or collect them with a lawnmower attachment then dispose of them, right? No! Instead of removing them entirely from your lawn, use these tips on how they can actually benefit your lawn and your flower beds too. The money homeowners will spend next Spring on lawn and garden fertilizers, mulch and bagged compost... they might have saved if they’d simply used those leaves now.

 

Why Are Leaves Valuable to the Gardener? 

It’s simple. When incorporated into soil, fall leaves:

  • Add nutrients, including phosphorous and potassium

  • Increase the soil’s microbial life 

  • Boost its water-holding capacity 

  • Improve its structure, known as tilth 

Not to mention that leaves are free! It takes little effort on your part to get them working for you. Here are five ways to use them:

1. Mow Them Into the Lawn

Together, shredded leaves and grass clippings add carbon (leaves) and nitrogen (grass) to the soil, reducing your need to add store-bought fertilizers later.

Here’s how: Use a mulching mower. If there’s a bag, take it off and mow with the discharge chute facing toward the lawn, so the clippings blow on the grass instead of on the street or driveway. Set the mower height at about 3 inches. Make another pass if the leaves are still in big pieces. The shredded leaves should sit no more than ¾ inch deep on the grass. Over the winter they will break down into the soil and be gone by spring.

2. Add Them to Vegetable Beds

You can incorporate whole or chopped leaves into any cleared-out vegetable beds. They will mostly decompose over the winter, then in spring you can mix in whatever is left. If you don’t want to see leftover leaves in your beds, shred them first. 

Don’t have a shredder? A garbage can and a string trimmer will work. Use a 55-gallon garbage can. Fill it three-quarters of the way with leaves. Put the string trimmer in, turn it on and move it through the layers of leaves. Be sure to wear eye and ear protection.

3. Make Leaf Mold

Leaf mold is simply wet leaves that have decomposed into a rich, black, soil-like substance that makes a perfect mulch for plants. Pile the leaves in a spot where they’re out of the way and won’t blow away. Or make large (3- or 4-foot) circles of chicken wire, 3 feet high, and pile the leaves in them. Wet the leaves as you go so they’ll rot. Turning the pile a few times during the winter will accelerate the process.

4. Mix Leaves — Shredded or Not — Into a Compost Pile Now, Where They’ll Break Down Over Winter

Even better: Stockpile dried leaves, in garbage bags or piled in that out-of-the-way place, for summer. In warm weather there’s an abundance of succulent green material (nitrogen) for your compost pile. But to keep the composting process aerobically working, and not rotting, it needs lots of “browns” (carbon), in the form of dried material. 

5. Protect Outdoor Potted Plants

When the weather turns cold and potted plants (the hardy ones, not houseplants or tropicals, which must be brought indoors) go dormant, pick a sheltered place on the north, west or east side of your house. Cluster the pots together against the house, ideally beneath an overhang. Pile dried leaves over, under and between the entire grouping of pots.

If the area is windy, corral the pots with chicken wire so the leaves won’t blow away. Pile the leaves inches deep, covering the pot and as much of the plant as possible. Under this insulating blanket, both plants and pots should come through the winter just fine. With this method, even terra-cotta pots can stay outdoors, as long as water can’t get into them and freeze.

Ultimate Fall Indoor Cleaning Checklist

As the days grow shorter, the weather becomes colder and snow is on its way, it's time to begin focusing on the indoor task that you may have been putting off.

 

1. Sweep and Inspect Chimneys and Fireplaces

Tzogia Kappatou/ iStock/ Getty Images Plus

A chimney should be cleaned and inspected yearly. A chimney sweep will help protect your home from accidental fires caused by creosote build-up. If you didn't give your interior fireplace surround a good cleaning at the end of last winter, do it now. Waiting another season will just add to the build-up of soot and make cleaning even more difficult.

Gas logs and fireplaces should also be inspected and cleaned so that they are safe and ready for use.

2. Change Smoke Detector Batteries

Jul Nichols/ E+/ Getty Images

A change of seasons also signals a time to change batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. This is one chore that can mean the difference in life and death and thousands of dollars in repair costs.

3. Clean or Replace HVAC Filters

firemanYU/ E+/ Getty Images

In addition to having an HVAC technician check your heating system, it is important to regularly change the filters in your heating and air conditioning system. Changing or cleaning filters will improve the air quality of your home and reduce the wear and tear on your furnace.

4. Clean and Reverse Ceiling Fans

powershot/ iStock/ Getty Images Plus

If the ceiling fans in your home have been running all summer, it's time to turn them off and clean the fan. Then, look for a small switch to reverse the blades so that the heated air will be redirected in a downward flow to keep you warmer during chilly days.

5. Deep Clean Throughout the House

gilaxia/ iStock/ Getty Images

If you've taken it easy during the summer and only gotten rid of the most visible grime, it's time to do a deeper cleaning including those places that you have been forgetting to clean including your cleaning tools. As you move through the rooms in your home, follow a checklist to make sure everything gets the attention it needs.

6. In the Bedroom

Oktay Ortakcioglu/ E+/ Getty Images

7. Store Summer Clothes and Inspect Winter Wardrobes

I_rinka/ iStock/ Getty Images Plus

While you're cleaning the bedrooms, don't forget your closet and summer clothes. Empty each clothes closet and sort summer clothes before storing them away. Choose clothes that you want to store until next year to be laundered or dry cleaned. The rest should be sold, donated or discarded. 

While the closet is empty, check that no harmful pests that can ruin clothes are lurking by vacuuming it out well.

8. In the Bathroom

Remove Soap Scum in Bathroom. hesh photo / Getty Images

9. In the Living Room

South_agency/ E+/ Getty Images

10. In the Kitchen

Jul Nicholes/ E+/ Getty Images

  • Empty and clean the pantry. Make a list of holiday baking supplies that you will need.

  • Clean the oven and vent hood.

  • Clean the refrigerator and freezer and discard unusable items. Dust and clean the refrigerator coils.

  • Inspect and clean small appliances.

Get Into the Spirit, Host a Virtual Halloween Party!

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, there's no reason that virtual Halloween parties should be any less thrilling than in-person events.

All your party guests can get into the Halloween spirit by dressing up, decorating, and engaging in spooky themed fun together online. Just because circumstances have changed this year doesn’t mean we can’t all find a way to celebrate this haunting holiday!

1. Throw a Zoom Halloween Party

Thanks to the power of Zoom, you can now host your own Halloween party without having anyone set foot inside your home. Not only is a virtual Halloween party a great way to socialize and mingle with your friends, but it’s also a fantastic opportunity to catch up with those you haven’t seen since quarantine guidelines went into effect.

How to Implement This Idea: You’ll want to post on social media about the idea, how to get an invite, and what they’ll need to participate. 

Below is some example language you can use:

"This Saturday, I will be hosting my very first digital Zoom Halloween Party! To attend, please share your email address by commenting below or sending a direct message to my inbox. I will send out a Zoom invite to join the party". 

The more people invited, the merrier the festivities. Just be prepared to have games going throughout the night to keep people engaged. Following are some ideas to arrange for your party.

2. Virtual Halloween Icebreaker Questions

Starting your party with icebreaker questions is a great way to warm up guests. By theming your questions toward Halloween, you can also help everyone get in the holiday spirit.

Here is a starter list of icebreakers:

  • What is your earliest memory of Halloween?

  • Which movie were you too scared to watch as a kid?

  • What is the best horror movie of all time?

  • Would you rather be a vampire or a ghost?

  • Do you prefer chocolate or chips?

  • What is the best candy in the world?

3. Pumpkin Carving Contest

This idea is great for bringing friends together during the Halloween season. It also requires very few items and is an event that pretty much every person loves to participate in.

Whether you and your guests come prepared with your very own spooky pumpkin creation before the Zoom call begins or carve them in real time, it's sure to be a hit. After everyone has shown off their monstrosities, a vote will be taken to select a winner. 

4. Create and Share Your Favorite Halloween Memes

Sharing Halloween memes is easy to do and fun for everyone. It allows you to show off your humor while also relating back to a holiday that is universally loved. If you’re going to choose only one social media activity out of this list, you should make memes.

How to Implement the Idea: Go to Imgflip.com to get started. They’ll ask you to choose a photo from their library or you can upload your own. From there, write in the copy using a font style, and poof, your new meme is ready to share. Go on your social media platforms and post the meme.

Does all this talk of memes have you feeling scared? Don’t fear! Click on this link to learn  how to create a viral meme that is sure to make your followers scream with delight.

5. Hold a Virtual Halloween Costume Contest

Hosting a costume contest is an extremely effective way of getting people into the Halloween spirit. It’s a fantastic opportunity for people to show off their costume design skills and their unique personalities. To set the tone of the holiday, invite your friends to join the video call in costume. 

How to Implement This Idea: Create a social post and send an email inviting people to join you on Zoom. Next, you’ll want to establish guidelines on how the contest will function. You’ll also want to establish yourself as the host of the contest and will need to lead the activity. Costume contests over Zoom can become hectic very fast. Keeping structure will prevent these issues.

Before the party, announce the categories, such as best coordinated costume, funniest costume, scariest costume, most creative costume, most detailed costume, and most timely costume. During the call, you can ask partygoers to cast votes for the top costume in each category via email, private chat etc. Once all votes are in, announce the winners and award prizes such as gift cards as an example.

Pro tip: Award extra points to anyone who dresses up a pet!

6. Halloween Zoom Backgrounds

Sure, you and your friends could go crazy covering the living room in artificial cobwebs or writing threatening messages in fake blood on the walls. Or, you could decorate for your Zoom Halloween party the easy way by changing your Zoom backgrounds to sinister or seasonal scenes.

Spooky Zoom background suggestions:

  • Haunted house

  • Graveyard

  • Pumpkin patch

  • Foggy forest

  • Full moon

  • Hotel hallway from “The Shining”

  • Disembodied hands

  • Zombie wasteland

You can even turn the activity into a competition and award a prize to the most amusing, creative, or interesting entry.

Here is a tutorial from Zoom on how to change your background.

7. Virtual Halloween Movie Marathon

Halloween is one of the holidays with the most TV and movie specials. Halloween moves aim  to make you scream, either with fear or with laughter.

To set the mood for your online Halloween party, you and your friends can stream creepy Halloween content on platforms like Zoom. By using a program like Metastream, you and your group can watch shows and movies simultaneously.

Scary Halloween movies:

  • Friday the 13th

  • Nightmare on Elm Street

  • Halloween

  • The Exorcist

  • The Ring

  • he Sixth Sense

  • Insidious

  • Cloverfield

  • Poltergeist

Funny Halloween movies:

  • Clue

  • The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror specials

  • It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

  • Hocus Pocus

  • The Nightmare Before Christmas

  • Young Frankenstein

  • Ghostbusters

  • Beetlejuice

  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Watching Halloween specials together is a great way to find out which of your virtual friends are jumpy and which ones have wicked senses of humor. Not to mention, surviving scary movie viewings is always easier with company!

8. Digital Fortune Telling

The supernatural takes center stage in the month of October. During your virtual Halloween party, entertain your friends with the occult by way of digital fortune telling and online seances.

You can consult a virtual Ouija board on the Museum of Talking Boards website, or get a free online tarot card reading from Lotus Tarot. A site called Spirit Navigator offers upwards of fifty different free online fortune telling methods, so you and your friends can explore various options of reading your fates.

Or, if you and your friends would rather not tamper with the unknown, then you can craft custom fortunes for each other as a storytelling exercise.

9. Ghost Stories

Ghost stories are a classic form of Halloween entertainment. You can liven up your online Halloween party by asking partygoers to share spine-tingling scary stories.

For inspiration, check out CreepyPasta, which are scary stories shared on various websites. You can also read through this list of terrifying tales on HuffPost or head over to the super short scary stories section on Reddit for ideas on how to tell a bone chilling tale.

If your ghoul-friends (and boy friends) feel creepily creative, then each member can write an original frightening story to share. Or, if you and the gang would rather listen to a guide tell ghost stories, you can check out our guided tiny campfire event and enjoy s’mores while you shiver.

10. Creepy Cocktails

Adult Halloween parties have one distinct advantage over kid’s Halloween parties: boo-ze. Halloween-themed cocktails can add an element of eerie fun to your online soiree.

For inspiration, check out this list of frightening potions from HGTV. 

For inspiration, check out this list of creepy cocktails from Good Housekeeping, or this list of frightening potions from HGTV.

Some say Halloween is all about the candy, but personally, we're more partial to a glass of witch's brew. Pick your poison this Halloween with one of these scary-delicious cocktails or non-alcoholic drinks. For the adults, choose between rum, tequila, or vodka cocktails. Since you don't want your little goblins to miss out on the holiday fun, throw together a fizzy, fruity, or creamy mocktail for the kids at your Halloween Party. No need to be a pro bartender to take on these recipes, all of these Halloween drinks are extremely easy to make and best of all, even easier to drink. That's what makes 'em dangerously good, don't ya think?

Once you figure out which potion, brew, or punch you're going to make, finalize your party menu with these Halloween appetizer and Halloween party snack ideas. And hey, even though these sugar-filled drinks taste like a treat, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't cap off the eeriest night of the year with Halloween cupcakesHalloween cookiesHalloween cakes, and other party-ready desserts.

I recommend sending your friends a list of ingredients or recipes ahead of time so that your guests come prepared. You can lead them through a Halloween-drink-making tutorial during the call.

List of virtual Halloween games:

Virtual Halloween party games are contests to entertain your online party guests. From murder mysteries to scavenger hunts, here is a list of ghoulish Halloween games you can play at your party. These activities are also called online Halloween games.

11. Zombie

Zombie Halloween game

Zombie is a game that promotes mindfulness. From time to time, each of us zones out and enters “zombie mode.” To play Zombie, ask your friends if they have done any of the  actions shown above without thinking.

Most of us have fallen victim to the mistakes on this list at least once or twice in our lives, so you may want to shorten the window to the last six months or so... that's your choice!

If the statement applies, then the player “got bitten” and must blackout their screen. The last player remaining wins the game.

12. Guess Whoooo?

Guess Whoooo? is a great game that invites players to determine the identity of people answering questions. To play virtually, a leader will ask the group a Halloween-themed question. All players will privately message the leader the answer. The leader will then share the responses, and players must match each reply to the correct participant. Players can either try to guess individually all at once, or can discuss answers together and narrow down the pairs one by one.

Here's a template you can use for your game.

Virtual Halloween game template

Feel free to add your own spooky prompts, too!


Conclusion

Virtual Halloween parties should be spook-tacular. By using the tips on this list, you can engage your remote friends and ensure your online event is a wicked good success!

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    How To Use Home Equity To Your Advantage

    Photocredit: Getty

    By Tara Mastroeni, Contributor, Forbes

    If you're a homeowner or aiming to be one someday soon, you probably know that having home equity is a good thing. However, beyond that, many people start to lose track. That's why we've taken it upon ourselves to solve the mystery of home equity once and for all. Read on to learn what it is, how it works, and how you can use it to your advantage.

    What is home equity?

    Put simply, home equity is the percentage of your home that you own outright. While you're always considered to be the owner of your home, if you took out a mortgage to buy it, the fact is that your lender also has an interest in the property. Over time, as you pay down your mortgage, the lender's interest in your home shrinks and your home equity grows.

    However, you can also grow your home equity in another way. You can do it by increasing the overall value of your home. This can happen by either living in an area with rising property values or by making substantial improvements to the property that will increase its resale value.

    How to use your home equity

    The good news is that, once you build it up, you can use your home equity to your advantage. When people talk about real estate being an asset, they mean that building home equity is a way to leverage wealth. Here are a few things that you can do with it.

    Home equity loan

    Home equity loans are often referred to as second mortgages because the two loans function very similarly. A home loan disburses the funds from the loan in one lump sum, much like what happened when you bought your home in the first place. From there, you'll be responsible for making regular, monthly payments to pay back the money you borrowed.

    With a home equity loan, you're borrowing against the equity you've built up in your home so the amount that you're allowed to borrow may be limited by how much progress you've made in paying down your mortgage. Typically, lenders will insist that you maintain at least a 15%-20% ownership stake in your home at all times.

    One benefit of borrowing against your home equity is that you can often do so at a much lower interest rate than credit cards or personal loans. That's why many people use this option to pay for big-ticket expenses like home remodels, paying off medical debt, or financing a child's college education.

    Home equity line of credit

    Home equity lines of credit are similar to home equity loans in that you're still borrowing against the equity in your home. However, the disbursement and fee structure couldn't be more different. With home equity lines of credit, the loan is divided into two distinct pay periods: the draw period and the repayment period.

    During the draw period, your home equity line of credit acts a lot like a credit card. You can draw on the equity in your home whenever you see fit. During this time, you'll likely only have to make payments on the interest accrued by your purchases.

    After a specified amount of time, you'll enter the repayment period. During the repayment period, you'll no longer be able to draw funds from your home equity. You'll also have to start making payments on both the principal and interest of what you've borrowed.

    Cash-out refinance

    Traditionally, with a refinance, you take out a new loan - usually one with better terms - to pay off and replace your old one. With a cash-out refinance, things work a little differently. In this case, you borrow more than what you owe and receive the difference in funds, which can be used as you see fit.

    Here, the amount that you can borrow above what you currently owe is determined by how much equity you have in your home. Usually, you can borrow up to 85% or 90% of your home's value.

    Move into something bigger

    The most traditional way to use added home equity is to sell your house to buy something bigger. When you sell your home, you'll most likely use some of the proceeds from the sale to pay off the remainder of your mortgage. However, if there is any difference between the sale price on your home and the amount you still owe, it comes to you as profit. That profit can then be used to buy a bigger home and leverage your home equity even further.

    How to figure out how much equity you have

    Figuring out how much equity you've built up in your home is easy. All you need to know is what your home is worth and what you owe on your mortgage. You can find out exactly how much your home is worth by having an appraisal done or you can get an approximate figure by having a real estate agent prepare a comparative market analysis. Online valuation tools are also an option, but they may not always be accurate.

    Once you have that information in hand, subtract the amount that you owe on your mortgage from the value of your home. The remainder is your home equity.

     

    8 Ways to Make a Space Feel Larger

    Feeling cramped at home? These tips can help open up a room without knocking down a wall.

    • Accentuate the vertical. Draw the eye upward so a room looks more spacious. Add a bookshelf that reaches to the ceiling. Install vertical shiplap or wallpaper with vertical stripes. Hang a pendant light fixture.

    • Consider “see-through” furniture. Choose chairs and sofas with visible legs instead of furniture with skirts that reach the floor. This allows you to see under and around pieces so they appear to float in the room rather than dominate it. Glass coffee tables are a good choice, too.

    • Lighten up surroundings. We all know white walls reflect light and makes a room look bigger. But why stop there? HouseLogic recommends painting walls, ceilings, and trim the same shade of white to present a soaring, bright space.

    • Go big with accents. Many people think small when designing a small room. Instead, add a couple of oversized accessories, like a big piece of art or a single large chair. A lot of little objects make a room appear cluttered while one or two big ones make it feel more spacious.

    • Get away from the wall. Create a central layout instead of pushing a sofa up against the wall. When there’s a wall right next to a piece of furniture, your eyes are drawn to the wall, which can make the room seem more cramped.

    • Simplify the color scheme. Use a monochromatic color scheme for walls, furniture, and accessories. When objects are a similar color, your eye doesn’t dwell on each one but rather sees them in a unified, uncomplicated form.

    • Skip the curtains. Curtains block natural light and the view to the outdoors, making a room feel smaller and darker.

    • Bring nature indoors. Add plants and use natural textures in furniture to tie indoor decor to the outdoor view that’s visible through the windows that aren’t blocked by curtains.

     

    Sources: Denise Balassi, Spaces Of Distinction; Laura Britt, Britt Design Group; Melissa Grove, Laura U Interior Design; HouseLogic.com

     

    Closing on a House: The Common Problems to Spot in a Final Walk-Through

    Both buyers and sellers should be aware of the issues that can arise during a final home walk-through. The final walk-through typically takes place mere hours before the closing itself. It’s one last opportunity for the buyer, along with his or her agent, to inspect the home and make sure there aren’t any last-minute problems.

     

     

    By Deanna Haas, Contributor for U.S. News and World Report

    For homebuyers and sellers alike, the final walk-through can be one of the most significant steps in the real estate process. It may also be one of the most nerve-wracking.

    Hopefully, your final walk-through will be smooth sailing. Every now and again, though, issues do arise – and they can go as far as to derail the entire home sale.

    Here are the most common final walk-through discoveries that can potentially throw a wrench into the transaction:

    • The home isn't empty.

    • The house is a mess.

    • The negotiated repairs haven't been completed. 

    • Included personal property has gone missing.

    • The lawn hasn't been cared for.

    • The utilities have been shut off.

    • The appliances aren't working.

    • There's major damage to the walls or ceilings.

    • The HVAC systems aren't working.

    • The home was damaged in the moving process.

    • Garage door openers don't work.

    • Toilets don't flush properly.

    • Garbage disposal and exhaust fans don't run right.

    • Open and close window/doors to make sure they're in check.

     

    The Home Isn’t Empty

    Unless otherwise agreed upon, the sellers should be totally moved out of the house by the time of the final walk-through. Now, if they left behind a can of paint or a couple bags of trash, that’s probably not the end of the world. But if they left behind much more, the buyer may have to request they come by and clean up.

    The House Is a Mess

    The typical agreement is that the seller leave the property in broom-clean condition. This is a somewhat nebulous term, and it may mean different things to different people. The house doesn’t necessarily have to be spotless, but neither should it be a disaster area. Ideally, the house should appear move-in ready for the new homeowners.

    The Negotiated Repairs Haven’t Been Completed

    When buyer and seller negotiate on repairs or renovations, it’s expected that they all be finished by the time of the final walk-through. If the seller needs a little additional time due to unforeseen circumstances, this should be communicated to the buyer well in advance of the closing.

    Included Personal Property Has Gone Missing

    Did the seller take items they said they would leave for you? Light fixtures? Window treatments? A piece of furniture you wanted to buy along with the house? That’s definitely something that can stall the closing or lead to some tumult.

    The Lawn Hasn’t Been Cared For

    Generally speaking, real estate contracts stipulate that the seller will keep the lawn areas maintained until the date of closing. That doesn’t mean everything has to be perfectly manicured, but if the grass is five feet tall, or has died during the escrow period, that’s a problem.

    The Utilities Have Been Shut Off

    Typically, your real estate contract will stipulate that the utilities have to be on through the final walk-through. If you don’t have power or running water during the walk-through, that could technically be a breach of contract.

    The Appliances Aren’t Working

    For homebuyers, it’s important to use the final walk-through as an opportunity to test all the appliances included in the sale, confirming they work as intended. If something doesn’t work, you can ask the seller for a repair allowance.

    There’s Major Damage to the Walls

    Did the seller remove a wall-mounted TV, a piece of artwork, or some kind of home automation technology? And if so, did it leave behind damage to the wall? This could be a big issue.

    The HVAC Systems Aren’t Working

    Buyers should test out both the heating and cooling capabilities of the home. See that they work satisfactorily. If not, that’s something for which you’ll likely want to negotiate repair costs or a price adjustment.

    The Home Was Damaged in the Moving Process

    If the sellers did any kind of damage to the home while they moved out, that’s something for you to take stock of. In some cases, it may be worthwhile for you to request a repair allowance.

    These are some of the main items you’ll want to look out for if you’re a buyer going through your final walk-through. And if you’re in the process of selling a house, let these serve as words of caution. Make sure to avoid these common hurdles to the home closing.

     

     

    How to Write an Offer Letter to a Seller

    Connect with home sellers to make them feel good about letting you purchase their home. A personal letter to a home seller allows you to provide better context to the offer price and conditions, and also allows you to make a personal connection by sharing everything you love about the home. 

    Getty Images

    By Tania Isacoff Friedland, Contributor to U.S. News & World Report

    First impressions are everything. Whether you’re buying a home, an apartment or some other type of property, presenting your initial offer in a positive light paves the way for a productive and smooth negotiation process. 

    Typically, formal offers are sent by the buyer’s broker to the seller’s broker in writing via email. In some cases, a buyer will also write a personal note to the seller to send along with it.

    In this case, the buyer’s broker will often include a short profile about the buyers and express their love for the property, but brief enough so the buyers' personal letter remains impactful and is not redundant. If the buyer is not working with a real estate broker and does not have representation, the offer would come directly from the buyer.

    So, if you truly love a home or want to acquire an investment property, how do you write the perfect offer letter that combines your personal touch with a formal offer? 

    Keep it simple, and focus on three things: State your intentions, show that you have the financial means to make the purchase and make a personal appeal to the seller.

    Here's how to write your letter to the seller:

    • Start with the details.

    • Paint a picture.

    • Romance the seller.

    • Go the extra mile.

    Start With the Details

    At the beginning of your offer letter, express your appreciation for having the opportunity to visit the property, and state your terms upfront. Note the example below is intended for an offer on a private residence – an offer for a different type of property should be modified accordingly:

    “Thank you for allowing me to visit [INSERT ADDRESS]. I love [INSERT ADDRESS] and I’m eager to make it my new home. I’m pleased to present my offer of [INSERT OFFER PRICE].” 

    Next, include information about how you plan to pay for the purchase (all cash or financing), your requests for contingencies (financing contingency and inspection contingency, for example), your desired closing time frame and any other special conditions. If you’re financing the purchase, a preapproval letter from your bank should be provided along with the offer letter. 

    It is important to make it clear that you’re a serious buyer and you're prepared to sign a contract upon completion of the due diligence process. You should also be in touch with a real estate attorney to help with the transaction.

    If you’re making an offer that’s substantially lower than the seller’s asking price, you might consider including your reasoning for the low offer. To help build your case, consider contextualizing current market conditions and recent sales of comparable properties in the same neighborhood or building to put things into perspective. If the property is older or in need of repairs and renovations, outlining what specific updates need to be done and the approximate renovation costs can also help justify your offer.

    Paint a Picture

    Presenting yourself as a human being, rather than a simple dollar amount, is key to establishing a successful negotiation position. Provide the seller with a brief personal background and tell them about your spouse or family, if applicable.

    Include career details, such as your current job and a description of your professional industry, as well as a quick summary of your career path leading up to your current position. This could also include where you grew up and which schools you’ve attended. You can even tell them about any pets you have.

    Now, you’re a person with a story – you’ve painted a picture about who you are, which is harder for a seller to ignore. The seller will think of you as a human being, not just another buyer who offered a certain price for the property. 

    Romance the Seller

    Once you’ve shared a bit about who you are, shift your focus to romancing the seller when it comes to his or her home. Flatter the seller by highlighting all the things you love about the house, and explaining why it is the place you want to call home. Be enthusiastic, but don’t go overboard. 

    While a real estate negotiation is a business transaction, if the sellers identify with you on a personal level, they can develop an affinity towards you – particularly in a competitive bidding situation – which may mean that they offer some flexibility during a negotiation. The sellers can feel pleased that they are passing their home on to someone who will love and appreciate it as much as they have.

    Go the Extra Mile

    In a competitive bidding situation, buyers can send flowers or cookies to the seller, along with a handwritten note. A small gesture like this indicates your thoughtfulness and authentic love for the property. Just be sure to keep it simple and tasteful, as you never want a seller to feel uncomfortable by being overly aggressive.

    In the end, the important thing to remember is that you want to make sure your offer letter clearly states your intent to purchase a home, that you are in a sound financial position to make the purchase and that you’re providing a personal appeal to the sellers so they know their home will be in caring and responsible hands.

     

     

    9 Ways To Make Your Outdoor Space Usable Year-Round

    As the coronavirus hangs on into the fall season, having outdoor space is proving more valuable than ever. But now that cooler weather is on the way, stretching out the life of your porch, backyard, or balcony is the next smart step.

    By 

    To warm up your outside rooms, try these 9 ideas to retrofit your yard or patio for the cooler fall season.

    1. Fire pit

    If you don't have an outdoor fireplace or fire pit already, now would be a great time to add this to your outdoor living space! Choose the best option for your space based on your budget and the square footage in your yard. 

    2. Heat lamps

      

    Photo by Christian Rice Architects, Inc.

    Make like a European sidewalk cafe and set up standing propane or electric heat lamps. Or consider installing an infrared heating device in your porch ceiling. These are a step up from traditional gas options and much sleeker and safer—and streamlined models can be inserted so that they heat a person directly, not the elements around them.

    Consider a patio heat lamp that takes just a screwdriver to assemble, has a no-tip base, and heats up in mere seconds.

    For maximum coziness, you can even find heated furniture.

    There are outdoor selections that can be plugged in to keep you warm as you stargaze from your backyard.

    3. Plush cushions and blankets

    Photo by Eden Clark of VEDA Design Group

    No one wants to sit on cold, wrought-iron or plastic deck chairs when the weather turns chilly, so be sure seat cushions and outdoor pillows are thick enough for the season. And a basket full of warm throws is another cozy touch if your guests (due to COVID-19) don't bring their own with them.

    4. Privacy screen

    Blocking the wind in cooler weather is easy enough with the addition of a wooden wall or screen. Or consider latticework, a cheaper pick that can also surround or partly enclose a patio or one side of a balcony.

    5. Curtained pergola

    Photo by Baker Patios

    A pergola or gazebo is another upgrade that can take your outdoor space from summer to fall, especially if you add curtains that can be drawn when the temperatures dip.

    6. Small cooktop

    While a full outdoor kitchen may not be in the budget, setting up a grill or small cooktop may be doable. Also, there are free-standing countertop and sink combos available for under $500.

    You might also redo an outdoor bar cart to signal fall and cooler temps (think mugs for tea, a jar of cinnamon sticks for warm cider, and brown spirits for Manhattans and hot toddies).

    7. All-weather rugs

    To keep your feet toasty, add a layer underfoot to warm an outdoor space. All-weather rugs can stand up to the elements, particularly those made from polypropylene. Just keep in mind that carpet with a thick pile won't work on a deck or patio.

    The Moroccan pattern on this all-weather rug is the exact pop of color you need on a typical all-brown patio or deck. Be sure to use a nonslip rug pad underneath to prevent shifting, and rotate this carpet so any color loss over time is evenly distributed.

    8. Extra lighting

    Candles and outdoor lamps won't add warmth per se, but the ambiance they offer is enough to keep the chill away. You can't really overdo outdoor lighting, so go a little nuts with twinkling lights wrapped around pillars, glowing lanterns that act as side tables, Mason jars with tea lights suspended from above, and Tiki torches placed strategically in the yard.

    For vintage flair on your deck, perhaps use Edison bulbs. And the setup's a breeze since each light has an individual hook attached so you can quickly hang the lights with nails or hooks.

    9. Small shed

    Photo by Equity Northwest Real Estate Meridian

    Want to splurge on a real structure? Studio sheds have become all the rage of late, and they're very versatile. Warm up in a she shed for some me time or use it as an office, homework space, crafting spot, or meditation area.