Secrets to Successful Home Staging

Make It Appealing to All Potential Buyers

Are you ready to list? Set the stage for a successful sale. Properly staging your home will help to downplay your home’s weaknesses, highlight its strengths, and catch the eye (and memory) of house hunters.

Rid the Home of Clutter
When staging your home, your goal is to show buyers what it looks like without clutter. One source of clutter easy to overlook is your furnishings. Remove whatever you can live without, while still maintaining functionality. Don’t be afraid to be ruthless – professional home stagers will often remove as much as half of a home’s furnishings.

Prune the Yard and Outside Spaces
The curbside view is the first impression that your home gives to homebuyers. Make sure the yard is mowed, shrubs are trimmed, the mailbox and driveway are in good repair, and the exterior doesn’t need paint. If you have a porch, set it up just like you would an indoor room, adding seating and splashes of color to give it a “relax here” vibe.

Light Up the Space
You want to make your home warm and welcoming from the moment someone steps inside. Open shades, curtains and drapes to allow maximum daylight into the room. Maximize the amount of light in the room by using higher wattage bulbs. Ideally, you should have three types of lighting per room: ambient, task oriented (such as for reading) and accent lighting.

Furniture Rearranged
Often we push furniture as close to the wall as possible in order to maximize living space in the center of the room. But for staging purposes, try to do the opposite. Moving furniture away from the walls will make a room look larger. Create cozy intentionally purposed spaces by grouping furniture together. Also consider the way placement of the furniture affects traffic flow. Avoid creating tight spaces. If buyers have to walk single file to get through the room, the room will feel small.

Bigger is Always Better
It’s possible for nice things to come in small packages, but not when it comes to homes. Buyers are looking for space that is usable and affordable. Brighter and lighter rooms seem bigger. Utilize paint colors to achieve a larger look. Connect the flow of two small rooms by painting them the same color. Achieve a seamless look by having the drapes and the walls match.

Repurpose and Redefine
When staging, you are making suggestions to potential buyers about what a room could be used for. A room shouldn’t be a free-for-all. Give it a purpose. Perhaps a room can staged to be an office, workout space, a craft area, a reading nook, play space, entertainment area or music room. Any of these uses can be suggested by décor and items in the room. But keep the staging simple enough that a buyer to come up with their own ideas too.

Your home may feel odd to you after it has been staged, but remember it’s all for a good cause. Staging is one of the first and most important steps you can take when listing your home, because making it appealing to potential buyers will lead to a quicker sale and a higher price.

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Trade-Offs

Five Compromises Worth Making When Buying a Home

Home buyers often start their search with a long list of must-haves, only to find they need to whittle down their list to remain within budget. Unless you’re a gazillionaire, it will be impossible to leave all the boxes on your wish list checked. So, how do buyers decide which pieces of their dream (home) they’re willing to give up?

In most cases, buyers will have to make compromises if they are to stay within their budget. We always tell buyers that if they can get 75% of what they are looking for they’re doing very well. What’s important for them to decide is which items on their wish list are must-have and which are less important and can be given up. Below are some commonly made concessions for buyers to consider:

Compromise #1 – Location  

It’s one of the first things buyers are willing to budge on. While finding a home within walking distance to work, shops, restaurants and public transportation is a buyer’s dream scenario, buyers do not want to compromise on their living space. Often the conveniently situated homes in a buyer’s price range are too small to fit their lifestyle needs, so the dream of a walk-to-town location very often will get removed from a buyer’s must-have list.

Compromise #2 – Square Footage

Not everyone is committed to doing every thing they can to keep from downsizing. If you’re willing to skip that guest room, playroom, or dining room, you may be able to stay within your budget and live in a nicer neighborhood. It doesn’t always make sense to devote a large portion of your housing budget and living space to have a guest room that will be rarely used. But, if your space needs might grow in the near future – say, if your family will be expanding – you might want to think twice
before moving into a tight squeeze.

Compromise #3 – Yard Size

When it comes to describing their dream home, buyers frequently say they want a large backyard. But in the Denver area, small lots are the norm and homes with large yards sell at a premium. After they’ve looked at a number of homes, buyers realize that the size of the back yard is not as important as the spaciousness of the interior of the home. In fact, when asked what they mean by a “large” backyard, the answer is almost universally the same: “large enough to fit a swing set.” Fortunately, this size yard is not difficult to find. But house hunters are less apt to compromise when it comes to the terrain itself. Buyers want a level yard to enjoy with their family and friends.

Compromise #4 – Awesome Garage

For first-time home buyers, it often comes as a surprise that not all homes have a two-car garage. Older homes, built in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, frequently do not. While there are homes that do not have a garage at all – and these homes are much harder to sell – buyers will often compromise and buy a home that has a one-car garage if the home has the other items on their must-have list.

Buyers are often flexible on the type of garage as well. Some garages are detached, which means that buyers can’t enter directly into the home from the garage. While some single-car garages are attached to the house, but have no direct entry from the garage into the house.

Compromise #5 – Specific Architecture

Often the first things buyers tell us about their wish list is that they want wood floors, granite countertops, and a specific architectural style. However, popular styles such as Craftsman Bungalows, Victorian, Tudor and Mid-Century Modern homes tend to be found in highly sought after neighborhoods and their prices can be very high. When buyers have taken some time to look at homes and consider their budget, a home’s aesthetics are usually the thing buyers are most willing to compromise.

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Property Taxes

Two Options for Paying Property Taxes In Colorado

If you are responsible for paying your own property taxes and they are not being escrowed with your mortgage payment, you have two options available in Colorado.  The first option is to pay the entire amount of the prior year’s taxes in full on or before April 30th.  The second option is to pay your property taxes in two installments – the first installment is due on or before February 28th and the second installment is due on or before June 15th.

Property Taxes and Your Closing. Depending on the time of year that a property closes and which method the Lender uses to pay property taxes, the Title Company will follow one of several procedures for collecting taxes at closing.

  • If  you’re closing during the first couple weeks of the year, before the counties have certified the new mill levies, the Title Company will normally escrow from the Seller 125% of the prior year’s property tax amount.  Once the mill levies are certified and the actual tax amount is available, the prior year’s taxes will be paid from the escrow and the difference will be refunded to the Seller.

Lender’s Procedure for Handling Property Taxes.  If you are selling your home and closing early in the year, your Lender will direct the Title Company handling the closing on how to collect the property taxes. Lenders typically request the Title Company to handle the payment of the prior year’s taxes in one of two ways:

  • The first option is to collect from the Seller (by means of a debit entry on their Settlement Statement/HUD-1) the entire amount of taxes due and remit that amount to the appropriate County Treasure prior to April 30th.
  • The second option is for the Title Company to collect and pay only the first half of the prior year’s taxes. In this case, the Seller will be debited and the Buyer credited for the entire amount of the prior year’s taxes.  The Buyer will then be debited for the first half of the prior year’s tax amount and the Title Company will pay the amount to the County.  The Lender will collect a tax escrow and will pay the second installment when it comes due on or before June 15th. 

By the first part of February, parties to a real estate transaction often encounter the problem of what to do when the mortgage payoff statement indicates the prior year’s taxes have been disbursed from the escrow account by the existing Lender, but have not yet been received by the Treasure. The Title Company will have a procedures in place for this scenerio.

The bottom line, the Title Company is responsible for conveying clear title to the new owners.

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August 2018 – Remodeling Projects That Deliver A High Return

Remodeling your home can be a great way to increase its value and ensure you get a good return when it comes time to sell. But, before you go tearing out your floors or adding another bedroom, take note: Not all projects are created equal. In fact, according to recent data from Remodeling magazine’s Cost vs. Value report, there’s a pretty big discrepancy between which projects deliver high returns and those that don’t.
 
Want to make sure your remodels are worth the effort? Here are some top options:

  • Get a new garage door. It seems simple, but replacing your garage door is the most value-adding project you can take on. On average, it delivers returns of more than 98 percent upon resale.
  • Focus on curb appeal. Upgrades to exterior areas saw serious growth over the last year. Wood deck additions increased over 18 percent in value, while stone veneer installation value was up almost 14 percent. 
  • Replace your entry door. Don’t bother sprucing up old doors. Replacing them with steel models can deliver a whopping 91 percent return on investment. And, at an average cost of $1,471, they’re one of the most affordable updates for your home.
  • Upgrade your kitchen. Minor kitchen remodels continue to be a top value-adding project. This year, the average small remodel adds about $17,193 to your home’s value and recoups more than 81 percent of your costs.

You might want to rule out projects like master suite additions and major kitchen remodels — they’re notorious for low returns. If you’re looking to boost your home’s value and increase its marketability, focus your efforts on projects that improve aesthetics and add ease and convenience instead. 

Want a second opinion before embarking on a remodeling project? We’d be happy to sit down with you and listen to your ideas for improving your home. We’ll tell you whether we think you’re on the right track or if we think you might be wasting your money.

Your Realtors,

Robert & Jani

 

How to Deal with a Low-Ball Offer

If you take care to price your home correctly – that is, at a price that is in line with what similar properties in the area have sold for recently – then you have a good chance of selling it at or near your asking price.
That doesn’t mean you won’t get a low-ball offer. You might. So, what do you do when that happens?

First, understand that the buyer may not necessarily be trying to steal away your home at a bargain-basement price. He might simply be mistaken about its true market value. Of course, he might also be coming in at a low price in the hopes he’ll get lucky.

You will never actually know the buyer’s motives. So, it would be a mistake to get angry or dismiss the offer out-of-hand. That low-ball offer might end up being the beginning of a negotiation that results in the sale of your home at a good price.

Your first step is to work with me to determine:

  • Whether the buyer is serious.
  • Whether the buyer is qualified. (For example, does he have a pre-approved mortgage?)
  • How amenable the buyer is to a counter-offer that reflects the true market value of your home.
  • What that counter-offer should be.

This isn’t an easy process. It takes the knowledge and experience of a professional real estate agent like me to get it right.

How to Decide If You Should Replace Your Windows

One of the most prominent features of any home is the windows. If they are well maintained, they will have a positive impact on the impression potential buyers have of your property. Of course, the opposite occurs when your windows look old and worn.
So, does that mean you should replace your windows?

That depends on a number of factors. Window replacement can be an expensive renovation. Here are a few things to consider before making your decision.

  • Do you see water infiltration or mildew on the interior sides of any of the window sills? This means that moisture is creeping in from the outside, and you need to get those windows repaired or replaced as soon as possible.
  • If your windows are double-paned – (two panes of glass) – check for any signs of moisture in between the glass panes. Moisture indicates that the thermal seal is broken and, at a minimum, the glass will need to be replaced.
  • Take a look at your windows from the outside. Is the trim rotted or cracked anywhere? Are there dark spots or any signs of rotting on the wood frames? Repairs or replacement may be required.
  • Check the operation of your windows. Do they open and close easily? Some windows, such as those in bedrooms, are often designed to be big enough to use as an exit in case of a fire. It’s important to make sure those work properly.
  • Finally, are you happy with how your windows look? Do you feel that your property will look significantly better with new windows?

Although they are expensive, replacing windows can have a lot of advantages. Depending on the efficiency of your current windows, replacing them could cut your energy costs by 10-20%. In addition, new windows block out more exterior noise, making your home quieter.

Want more tips on increasing the value, and enjoyment, of your property? Call me today.

Eco-friendly Choices for Household Floors

Choosing new or replacement eco-friendly flooring is one of the emerging trends among house and condo owners. Eco-friendly flooring is generally identified as being made from and with more sustainable resources; materials that don’t deplete or permanently damage the environment (such as toxic laminates); or, material that is easy to reuse or recycle after its intended purpose. Here are some examples:
Renewable/Sustainable: Bamboo and cork are popular natural resources that renew relatively quickly. It should be noted that traditional woods are also renewable, as long as they are managed through sustainable practices. Before you buy natural flooring products, ask if the harvesting methods are verified through an accredited authority.

Repurposed/Reclaimed: Flooring made from old building structures (e.g. posts, beams, walls and planks) is a viable alternative option to grown and harvested resources. Likewise, recycled glass, plastic and rubber provide ample raw materials for creative flooring effects. Using them also reduces landfill. These products can be found through decorative flooring dealers.

Reusable/Recyclable: When purchasing any product, whether natural, synthetic and/or manufactured, it is important to know that the product can be easily recycled when it is beyond its usefulness, without causing environmental detriment in a landfill.

Notable, Quotable, Quotes!

“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”
John Wooden

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.”
John D. Rockefeller

“Be as smart as you can, but remember that it is always better to be wise than to be smart.”
Alan Alda

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Hiring a Contractor

How to Protect Yourself – The Federal Trade Commission Estimates that Americans Lost More Than $4.1 Billion Dollars to Fraud and Scams in the Last 5 Years!

Hold On! Not so Fast!

  • Door-to-door salesperson???
  • What do you know about them?
  • Always Use extreme caution – you are about to let strangers in your home!
  • Are they pressuring you for an immediate decision? WARNING bells should go off!
  • Use due diligence and research any contractor before agreeing to a contract.
  • Interview several contractors before making a decision.
  • Consider getting a recommendation from someone you trust.  Call the recommendation. Ask questions. Can you see a sample of their work?
  • They only accept cash? This the number one warning!
  • Can you verify the company name, address and phone number? Anyone can print a business card.
  • Did they provide you with any references?
  • Did they offer you a great price because they “have materials left form another job”.
  • Did they ask you to get any required permits?

Interviewing Guidelines

  • Get the contractor’s full name and contact information.
  • Make sure the contractor is licensed, insured and bonded in your state. Ask for a copy of his/her license.
  • Ask how much experience the contractor has in similar jobs.
  • Ask for a break down of the estimate by costs. Only agree to pay for what has been presented in the contract. Do not agree up front, to pay additional charges.
  • Ask for a timeline of the project from start to finish.
  • If the contractor is using sub-contractors, make sure those workers are also licensed, bonded and insured.
  • Ask if the contractor provides a warranty on the work being done. Is the contractor responsible to fix their own mistakes?

Once You Have Chosen a Contractor

  • Obtain a written and signed bid, no matter how big or small the job is.
  • If a building permit is required, have the contractor get one in their.
  • Never pay the contractor in cash! Always use a credit card and get a receipt.
  • Never pay for the job upfront. Ask to billed after it is complete.
  • If you are dealing with an insurance claim, call your insurance company prior to the work being done to see if they have any restrictions or requirements.

While the Work is in Progress

  • Secure all your valuables in the house. Do not leave them out where they could be damaged or stolen.
  • If you see a problem with the job, photograph it before you discuss with the contractor.
  • Be available when the work is being done, in case of questions and to monitor the work.

After the Work is Completed

  • Make sure all the subcontractors have been paid by your contractor.
  • Make sure the job has been completed to your satisfaction.
  • Pay the final bill!

 

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March 2017 – Millennials are Moving to the Suburbs

Millennials have delayed home-buying more than earlier generations, but as this huge generation starts moving into the next stage of life, we’re finding that they are more similar to older generations than many thought. Their views on community and homeownership are pretty traditional, and they don’t all fit the urban stereotype you might have in your head.

Like generations before them, millennial homebuyers are beginning to shy away from city life and taking up residence in the suburbs. There is one key difference –  according to a report by Zillow, millennial homebuyers are passing on small starter homes and paying higher prices to live in square footage typical of older generations (roughly 1,800 square feet). And, like older generations, they are showing an appetite for community amenities and townhouses.

Forty-two percent of homebuyers in 2016 were millennials and they are putting down roots like older generations. Sixty-four percent of those who moved in 2016 stayed within the same city, and only 7 percent relocated to another state. Roughly half of millennial homeowners are now living in the suburbs, while 33 percent are in urban areas and 20 percent are in rural areas.

Robert & Jani

How To Sell Your Home Super Fast
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If you put your home on the market, chances are you want it to sell quickly. However, there are certain circumstances in which sellers don’t just want their home to sell quickly, they actually need it to sell super fast. This may be due to a sudden relocation, the purchase of a new home with a tight closing date, or any number of other reasons.

Obviously, this can be a stressful situation. However, there are some practical things you can do to help your home sell super fast:

  • Find out the current market value of your property. This will guide you in your decision on the listing price.
  • Be reasonable about the listing price. You can sell quickly and still get a good price for your home. But, realistically, you won’t be able to hold out in the hopes of getting an “above market value” offer.
  • Be as flexible and accommodating as possible when it comes to scheduling viewings and open houses. If you’re going to restrict buyers to seeing your home on Saturdays from 3 to 5, then you’re going to reduce your chances of a quick sale.
  • Clean and declutter your home. This is the fastest way to dramatically improve how it shows.
  • Tend to the outside of your property. Cut the grass. Trim the hedges. Fix the creaking back gate. Do everything you can to increase your property’s curb appeal.
  • Apply fresh paint wherever possible. Painting is the quickest and least expensive “renovation” you can do. It can significantly improve the look of any area of your home.
  • Spread the news that your home is on the market and that you’re looking for a quick sale. Tell your friends, neighbors and co-workers.

 

What to View When Viewing a Home
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Shopping for a home is a little like shopping for a car. Unless you know what to look for, you risk being swayed by first impressions and buying something that does not truly meet your needs.

For example, you might fall in love with the recreation room — complete with a bar and a dartboard — and unconsciously overlook the fact that the home doesn’t have enough bedrooms to accommodate your growing family.

So when you’re viewing a potential new home, or checking out a property during a weekend “open house”, make sure the home meets your needs.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Is there enough room for my family, now and in the future? Remember, as kids grow so does the space they require!
  • Are there enough bedrooms, bathrooms, closets and storage space?
  • Is the yard big enough?
  • Will my furniture fit the space?
  • Do I like the neighborhood? Always take a walk around and explore the area.
  • Does anything need to be repaired or replaced? If the seller won’t be taking care of such issues, repairs or replacements could add hundreds or even thousands of dollars to the true cost of buying the property.

Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions when viewing a home. After all, it’s a major purchase. You want to get it right!

Need help finding homes to view that meet your requirements? Call today.

 

Buyers Will Love Your Storage Areas If…
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A potential buyer comes to view your home. She explores each room with interest. Then she opens the closet door in the master bedroom. Will she be impressed with the space and imagine her clothes adorning the racks and shelves?

That likely depends on how you use and manage that storage space.

Of course, her first reaction will be based on size. Short of doing a major renovation, there’s not much you can do about that.

However, there is plenty you can do to make the space seem bright and roomy. Your first step is to remove as much of the clutter as possible. If the closet doubles as storage for boxes and other items, for example, move those items elsewhere. (It might make sense for you to temporarily rent space at a local self-storage.)

Next, make sure the space isn’t over-filled. You don’t have to remove all your clothes, but consider removing enough to fully accentuate the roominess of the space and make it look neat and organized.

Finally, don’t forget about lighting. It also plays a key role. A dimly lit closet will make the space look unappealing. Use enough wattage to create a pleasant glow throughout the area.

Don’t forget to do the same things for all your other storage spaces too.

 

notable, quotable… quotes!

“If I look confused, it’s because I’m thinking.”

Samuel Goldwyn

“Everyone is a genius at least once a year.”

G. C. Lichtenberg

“I not only use all the brains I have, I use all the brains I can borrow.”

Calvin Coolidge

 

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June 2015 – Home Shopping and The Four-Legged Stool

As summer unfolds, many people attend special gatherings. And the more people gather, the more they talk. Eventually, they wind up talking about where the real estate market is today, and where it is likely heading.

If you would like to know more about how things are shaping up for the summer and fall markets, just give us a call. You never know when the next real estate opportunity will present itself.

If you have any family or friends who need some expert real estate advice, please don’t hesitate to have them call us. We’re here to help.

Best Wishes,

Robert & Jani

 

 

 

 

 

Should You Worry About Market Fluctuations?
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You turn on the television and watch a news story about housing prices going down. Then you receive a flyer in the mail about a property around the corner that sold for a decent price. Next you read a newspaper article about the housing market on the upswing again.

It’s a little like being on a roller-coaster ride!

Unfortunately the ride isn’t much fun if you’re thinking of buying or selling a home. In fact, it can be very confusing and frustrating. You just don’t know if “now” is the right time to make a move.

In reality, the housing market has been fluctuating for decades. Yet, people sell their homes every day for good prices, and just as many people get into their next dream homes affordably.

When you hear news of market fluctuations, there are two important things to consider.

First of all, a lot of media information about the housing market is national, or at least regional. If the housing market is trending up or down nationally, remember that it doesn’t necessarily mean that your LOCAL market is doing the same.

In fact, it’s entirely possible for housing prices to be rising in your neighborhood while they are falling nationally, and vice versa.

Secondly, if you’re selling a current property while buying another home, then the net effect of market fluctuations may cancel out.

Say, for example, that the local market is on the upswing. You’ll probably be able to sell your current home for a good price. However, the home you purchase will likely also be priced to reflect the upswing.

The same holds true when the market is down.

All that being said, there are some circumstances in which you need to consider market fluctuations when deciding whether or not to make a move. A good REALTOR® will help.

Looking for a good REALTOR®? Call today.

 

Home Shopping And The Four-Legged Stool
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What kind of stool is most likely to keep you from toppling over when you sit on it? Of course, two-legged stools won’t even stand on their own. Three-legged stools are okay, but still unstable. Four-legged stools are rock solid.

What does that have to do with shopping for a new home?

Well, if you want to find the right home quickly and for the best price, you need to have four things in place – the four legs of the stool. They will help ensure the experience goes smoothly.

The first leg is your wish list. You need to have a clear picture of the type of home you want. A bungalow or two stories? How many bedrooms? A large deck? Don’t forget about the neighborhood. Need to be close to major highways for ease of commuting? Need good schools and playgrounds within walking distance?

The second leg is a pre-approved mortgage. Getting the financing handled upfront takes the guesswork out of what you can afford. Sellers and their REALTORS® are more likely to take any offers you make more seriously too.

The third leg is realistic expectations. Of homes that sell, 99% sell at or near their current market values. That doesn’t mean you can’t find a good deal. It does mean you’re unlikely to find a “steal”. Fortunately, there are likely several wonderful properties available within your price range.

The final leg of the stool is a great REALTOR®. Choosing the right real estate professional is crucial to making your home shopping experience less stressful and more productive.

So when you’re hunting for a new home, make sure you start with a stable “four-legged stool”. It will dramatically increase your chances of finding a home that fits your needs and budget.

Need help with that? Call today.

 

Dealing With A Home Inspection Issue
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As you may know, it’s common to include a home inspection as a condition of an offer you make. It protects you from issues that you might not otherwise see during a viewing.

What do you do if the home inspector finds something wrong? The inspector might find a leak in the foundation, or windows that are old, drafty and need replacing.

Must you pass on a property that you otherwise like?

Not necessarily. Just because the home inspector discovered a deficiency doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t purchase the home. You should, however, bring the issue up with the seller.

Your REALTOR® will do that on your behalf, and look after your interests.

In many circumstances, your REALTOR® will be able to negotiate an agreement that is satisfactory to everyone involved. This will usually be in the form of a reduction in the sale price to cover some or all of the costs of the repair, or a requirement to have the seller get the repairs done before you move in.

So don’t worry if the inspector finds something wrong. Chances are you can still get the home and have any issues dealt with to your satisfaction.

 

notable, quotable… quotes!

“Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.”

Oprah Winfrey

“Your mind is like a parachute, it works best when it’s opened.”

Author Unknown

“I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be.” 

Groucho Marx

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Are Your Rooms Small?

How to Make Small Rooms Look Larger

Recent reports from new home builders make it clear that the average size of a new home is smaller than it was a few years ago. Buyers are beginning to embrace the concept of the “big-enough” home. If you have embraced this trend and have chosen to make do with reduced square footage, here are some suggestions on how to make these smaller rooms look larger and function effectively:

  • Choose furniture wisely. While small furniture takes up less space and makes a room feel more open, it may not be as comfortable as larger pieces. The solution may be to make do with fewer larger pieces.
  • Let in as much natural light as possible. Natural light makes rooms seem airier, so take steps to add natural light. Adding a skylight will capture light and make a room appear larger. When choosing your window treatments, remember that curtains block light – the less you cover, the more natural light can flood into your home. Choose a sheer fabric, or chose blinds and shades that expose the entire window when drawn. If you need privacy, consider replacing a window with glass blocks, which provide privacy while allowing light in.
  • Avoid straight lines. Round tables, rugs and pillows, and sofas and chairs with curves, help small rooms feel less boxy.
  • Organize your collectibles. Removing all the knick-knacks from a small room will make it appear more spacious, but also more sterile and less homey. Instead, edit your collectibles carefully and display them in just one or two places, not scattered throughout the whole room.  A group of similar items, or different objects of the same color, creates a visual destination in a room and avoids a sense of stifling clutter.
  • Use tables made of clear materials.  Clear surfaces such as glass or Lucite give the impression of openness while delivering function.
  • Choose contrasting colors to visually expand small rooms. In the past, interior designers have suggested that painting everything white.  But today, while they still like white for cabinets and ceilings, they are suggesting that you add a warm contrasting color that will cast a glow to the room. A different approach to making a room appear larger is to paint the walls and ceiling the same shade, so the eye doesn’t stop at the ceiling line.
  • Strategic use of lighting. Lamps placed at different heights will brighten a small room and make it seem larger.
  • Use floating shelves instead of cabinets. These provide useful storage, but look airy and chic.
  • Determine your priorities. Make rooms fit your needs and lifestyle. If having a desk is more important than having a dining table, you can eat at the kitchen counter or coffee table.
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What’s Hot in Outdoor Living

It’s not quite spring yet, but it’s not too early to start thinking about your outdoor living areas. Surveys show that having an attractive outdoor living environment ranks very high with today’s buyers. Creating an “outdoor living room” for your home will pay off when you sell. Not planning to move?  Then do it for yourself and your family.  It’s a relatively inexpensive way to give yourself more space for living and entertaining.

What features are most desirable?  The American Society of Landscape Architects conducts an annual Residential Trends Survey. It’s 2011 survey, reported these features as the most popular outdoor living feature trends:

  • exterior lighting (96.2%)
  • fire pits and outdoor fireplaces (94.2%)
  • seating and dining areas (94.1%)
  • grills (93.8%)
  • installed seating, such as benches, seat walls, or ledges (89.5%)
  • weatherized outdoor furniture (83.5% )
  • counter space (74.2%)
  • utility storage (61.3%)
  • stereo systems (58.3%)
  • sinks (54.7%)
  • refrigerators (50.2%)

The survey showed increased interest in technology for the outdoors, such as stereo systems, Internet access and televisions. Low-maintenance landscaping and water-efficient irrigation systems are also growing increasingly popular.

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A Leaky Roof May Come from an Interior Source

In some cases what appears to be a roof surface leak is not a leak at all but rather an interior source of water. Here are some examples –• Air leakage from the house: If household air can leak into the attic, warm moist air will condense on surfaces in the attic during cold weather. This can damage the roof decking and structural framing and even cause water to drip back into the house. Sealing the attic in cold climates is very important.

• Leaking ducting: If heating and cooling ducting runs through the attic, it must be well sealed. Ducts leaking air can cause condensation.

• Air conditioning ducting: If air conditioning ducting runs through the attic, it should be well insulated and have a good vapor barrier. Condensation can form on cold air ducts and can drip down into the ceiling.

• Attic mounted heating and cooling: Furnaces and air conditioning evaporators create condensation. If this equipment is located in the attic and there is a leak somewhere in the condensation path, it will leak into the house.

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