All articles have been provided by The National Association of Realtors.
Article Submitted by Fixr.com
The basement doesn’t just have to be a space to throw all of that extra storage. Show it as usable space, and it may even help you increase the value of the home. Basement remodels typically recoup about 70 percent of their costs at time of resale, which can add a tremendous amount of value to your home.
Making it the coolest room in the house may not be too difficult either. After all, basements tend to stay cooler during the summer months, making this an ideal place for the family to hang out when the weather heats up outside.
1. Create an In-Home Theater
Basements not only are typically cooler than the rest of the home, but they’re also usually darker. For that reason, they’re an excellent place to add a theater to watch movies on those hot summer nights. Best of all, you don’t have to do a complete basement remodel, with costs around $50,000, to gain this space. A TV mount costs around $250, while built in seating costs around $840 – $1,680. (Just be sure for safety to completely waterproof the room before running wires through the basement.)
2. Make a Children’s Play Area
Basements are often neglected areas of the home, used primarily for storage and not much else. So why not turn your unused basement space into a new playroom for your kids?
Start with the staircase. Most basements have only partially finished staircases so installing a new one will help make the space more comfortable as well as safer. Next, ensure that you have egress windows installed, and that the basement is fully waterproofed. From there, you can carpet the floors to make the space more comfortable, and move your children’s toys downstairs to make more space in their rooms.
3. Create an Adult Entertainment Space
If you love to entertain, consider building a bar into your basement. Basements are already the ideal place to install a wine cellar, so why not take it a step further and put in an entertainment area and bar for parties as well? Basements that walkout onto patios can be the ideal place for summer entertaining, giving guests a way to get in out of the heat or a summer rainstorm. Consider putting in a tile floor to give the room a finished look and keep the floors easy to clean. Match the bar countertop to the color of the floors for a fresh, stylish appearance.
4. Create a Garden Utility Room
If you spend any time out in the garden, you probably know about the dirt, tools, and pots that accompany this hobby. Basements are a great place to install a utility sink and counter, and to store all of your garden paraphernalia. Installing a french drain and a hose will make cleanup a snap, while shelving placed just beneath the windows will give your plants a place to sprout before you take them outside for the summer.
5. Create a New Family Room
Family rooms often get even more use than the more formal living room, so family rooms in a cooler basement can get a lot of use during the summer months. Basements finished as family rooms may be coveted by homebuyers too, giving you the maximum return on investment. This includes not only tiling or carpeting the floors, but also putting up drywall to complete the walls as well. Consider adding a suspended acoustic ceiling to help insulate the basement from the sounds above, while making the rooms more attractive at the same time.
To find out more about projects to tackle around the home, be sure to visit the Cost Guides.
By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine
Two-toned colored kitchens are gaining popularity this year. White and gray painted cabinets are dominating kitchen color schemes, according to the 2017 Kitchen & Bath Design Trends survey conducted by the National Kitchen and Bath Association.
Other colors are getting mixed in too, adding a little more pizzazz to kitchen design. For example, the surrounding kitchen cabinets may be white and then the center island may feature gray cabinets. Or, white cabinets may be on the top and then gray cabinets on the bottom.
Other materials are getting mixed in the kitchen too. The combinations, however, are mostly muted and simple. “Clean lines with no fussy moldings or trims,” one NKBA survey respondent said. “White kitchens are never going away, but I’ve recommended mixed countertop materials, mixed cabinet colors and frequently use lots of light/dark materials for contrast.”
That said, for the more daring, blue or black-toned cabinets as well as high-gloss finishes are gaining popularity in kitchen designs too, according to NKBA’s survey.
By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine
Don’t underestimate the power of a space based on its size. Sure, your listing may be size-challenged in the yard department, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be a showpiece.
“As building lots continue to be smaller and scarcer, lot preparation with the goal of maximizing livable outdoor space tops the list of property enhancement desires,” according to Kermit Baker, chief economist at the American Institute of Architects. Indeed, the desire for outdoor living space ranked tops among architects for landscaping trends in the first quarter of 2017 AIA survey. Blended indoor/outdoor living came in second.
In the latest issue of REALTOR® Magazine, we took a look at How to Make a Big Statement With a Small Yard.
There are plenty of ways you can enhance a small space and several design experts showed us how, from setting a focal point to using reflective materials, tweaking the furnishing scale, accenting with container gardens and layering the light. Read tips on each, and take a look at a few examples.
Show off the green
Prune plants so they’re more vertical than horizontal, training them to grow up rather than out. Also, consider creating a vertical wall of planters, like containers of ornamental grasses. You can also raise plant height by several feet using retaining walls, raised beds, or extra long, slender containers.
Photo Credit: Photos by Linda Oyama Bryan for Mariani Landscape, Lake Bluff, Ill., a member of the National Association of Landscape Professionals
Create functional, inviting spaces
Even a small backyard can show off a dining space or an area with comfy chairs around a fire pit. Show how the space can be used for entertaining.
Photo Credit: Photos by Linda Oyama Bryan for Mariani Landscape, Lake Bluff, Ill., a member of the National Association of Landscape Professionals ]
Accentuate the far side of the yard
By getting buyers to gaze across a stretch of yard, you’ll help make the space feel larger. For example, place a bench at the far side of the landscape, surrounded by lush greenery.
By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine
Porching is gaining a following. And as the summer heats up, who doesn’t want to hang out on a cozy, stylish front porch or veranda while reading, sipping wine, or saying “hello” to neighbors as they pass by?
Some houses were just made for porching too. Check out some of these homes that offer some of the best porching across the country.
South Carolina Lowcountry
Palmetto Bluff touts itself as the largest remaining waterfront property on the East Coast. The 20,000-acre development is located in the heart of South Carolina Lowcountry and surrounded by 32 miles of riverfront and features extensive nature trails. The development boasts 500 homes that offer countless porches that rest beneath live oaks and quiet streets lined with gas-lit walkways. The Montage Palmetto Bluff recently debuted a new Inn with a wrap-around porch that is decorated with rocking chairs that beckons you to sit back and relax.
This residential community and private club serves up the Jackson Hole experience tucked away in the woods. The Residences feature spacious porches that offer plenty of sunny mountain views. Owners can also porch at The Clubhouse, which overlooks the Snake River and is surrounded by mature trees.
The Cliffs is located in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains and features a collection of residential communities surrounded by a national forest. Homeowners can select from a Blue Ridge Mountain, Lake Keowee, or Asheville, N.C. view from their porch.
Contributed by TheHandyNest.com
A dirty and filthy bathtub with spots and scratches is hardly a relaxing sight. It can also act as a breeding ground for germs and bacteria. Here we will be talking about some of the best ways on how to clean bathtub and how to protect it from dirt and spots.
Materials Used To Create A Bathtub
Depending on the material that is used to create the bathtub, different methods of cleaning can have different effects on the bathtub. Some of the materials are easier to clean when compared to others, whereas some might take longer and more effort. Let’s have a quick look on a few materials that are commonly used to make bathtubs.
Porcelain Enameled Steel Bathtub
Porcelain enameled steel is a commonly used and comparatively inexpensive option when it comes to making bathtubs. These bathtubs tend to be heavier than acrylic and fiberglass bathtubs. They are extremely durable and are easy to clean.
Some of the disadvantages of using a porcelain enameled steel bathtub are that they tend to get chipped easily and these chipped areas can quickly begin to rust.
When cleaning a porcelain bathtub, avoid using abrasive cleaners as they can chip the surface of the bathtub. Also stay away from scouring powder, white vinegar, and steel wool as they can damage the finish of the bathtub.
If you are looking for a cleaner that is gentle on the surface and can be used weekly, then you can choose any of the bathtub cleaners available in the store. Be sure to check if the given cleaner is safe on porcelain enamel.
You can even make your own porcelain bathtub cleaner at your home by following the below steps:
- Add a couple tablespoons of your dish washing soap to a gallon of hot water and apply on the surface of the bathtub using a sponge or a rag.
- Scrub the porcelain and rinse well with water.
Make sure you only use this process once a month — at most — as it can damage the bathtub with overuse. If you wish to give your bathtub a new and shiny appearance, dab a small amount of lemon oil and rub the sides of the bathtub.
Acrylic bathtubs are often used today due to their versatility, durability, options, and economic affordability. The acrylic tub is made up of vacuum formed acrylic sheets, which are then reinforced with the help of fiberglass. They have a non-porous surface and can be repaired to some extent in the case of any damage. They come exclusively in a range of colors, shapes, and sizes.
But care should be taken while cleaning such bathtubs as they easily tend to get scratched when cleaned with an abrasive cleaner.
It is extremely important to be careful when cleaning your bathtub if it is made up of acrylic plastic. Acylic plastic can be easily damaged by the effects of chemical and abrasive materials. So, it is highly recommended to take all the more care while cleaning an acrylic plastic bathtub. Here is what you can do:
- Use warm water and wet the bathtub before you begin the cleaning process.
- Pour a small amount of baby shampoo on a damp rag or a piece of cloth and rub the surface of the bathtub in circles.
- Rinse the rag often as the rag can begin to accumulate soap on it. Rinse the surface of the bathtub and repeat the process until you think that the bathtub is clean and spot free.
- After the surface has dried and is cleaned, use a can of car wax and a rag to apply the wax on the surface of the bathtub.
- Apply the wax on the surface of the bathtub in circles, like how you would generally apply car wax on your car.
- Allow the surface to dry out for a few minutes and buff the surface of the bathtub with the help of a dry cotton ball.
The car wax applied on the bathtub makes the soap, water, and shampoo do not stick to the surface. Repeat the process if necessary.
Fiberglass bathtubs are another affordable option when it comes to bathtubs. They are created with layers of surface coat, polyester resin, and fiberglass reinforcements. They are less durable as well.
You should take care when you are cleaning your fiberglass bathtub as they are not durable like other materials and the surface can easily get cracked and scratched. The finish also tends to fade away with constant use.
You can clean your fiberglass bathtub with the help of a shower or cleaner mixture as explained in the steps below:
- In a part of hot water, mix a healthy amount of baking soda and half a cup of your dish soap.
- When the components are mixed, it will begin to form a paste.
- Keep adding baking soda to the mixture till it is able to stick on the wall of the bathtub.
- Use a sponge and apply the mixture on the bathtub and allow it to stand for 30 minutes or more.
- After half an hour, wait and scrub the bathtub vigorously.
- Rinse the fiberglass bathtub with the help of cold water and wipe away the excess water with the help of a paper towel.
- Now you can use a magic eraser to wipe away all the stains and dirt once again.
To give your fiberglass bathtub the shine and appearance of a new bathtub, use a good grade rubbing wax that is made especially for fiberglass. Here is what you need to do:
- Take a good grade auto wax and an orbital buffer.
- Apply the rubbing wax and work your magic in small sections.
- Don’t apply the mixture for long on one area as it can burn the fiberglass.
- Buff the rubbing wax with the help of a terry cloth and complete the process with the help of auto wax.
- Rinse with cold water to harden and allow the shine to stay for longer.
Enameled Cast Iron Bathtub
An enameled cast iron bathtub is an extremely durable and heavy bathtub, which is made up of enameled cast iron. It is made up of molded iron and is coated with enamel. It is more expensive when compared to the other kinds of bathtubs but this makes them all the more durable and long lasting.
The thick enamel cover makes it resistant to chipping and scratching and helps you maintain the look for years to come. However, avoid using harmful chemicals on an enameled cast iron bathtub, and use baking soda and water to keep it new for years to come.
Handle an enameled cast iron with caution as you can end up discoloring it with the use of harmful chemicals. For daily cleaning, it is highly recommended to use baking soda with warm water. All you need to do is:
- Make a paste out of baking soda and warm water and apply it on the stains
- Let the paste sit there for around 30 minutes
- Use a cleaning towel to scrub the scrum and filth
- Rinse with warm water.
However, if your bathtub has some tough stains, follow the following steps:
- Mix a teaspoon of trisodium phosphate cleaner (TSP) with hot water.
- Apply the solution on the stain with gentle rubbing using a sponge and rinse well.
Bathtubs Made of Cast Polymers (Like Cultured Marble, Granite or Onyx)
These are special engineered natural stone or solid surface materials that are molded together with minerals, polymeric materials, and resins to form a solid surface, and are usually finished off with a gel cast finish.
Proper care should be taken while cleaning cast polymer bathtubs as even the slightest scratches can destroy the shine of the bathtub. It is thus highly recommended to avoid using abrasive scrubs and chemicals on it.
It is important to adopt proper steps while cleaning a cast polymer as even the slightest scratches would be easily visible. It is highly recommended to avoid using abrasive cleaners and scratchy sponges. Follow the following steps to stay safe:
- Use a mild detergent or a mild soap for cleaning.
- In order to remove soap scrums, mix vinegar and water in equal amounts and spray on the affected area.
- Wipe the area with a soft cloth.
Things To Avoid When Cleaning Your Bathtub
By avoiding some of these common and silly mistake and errors that people often do, you can make sure that your bathtub shines and keeps shining for a longer duration.
- Don’t leave your soap or shampoo bottles on the bathroom or bathtub floor as this can cause more stains and marks to emerge. The acids in these products make the bathtub easier to crack and for the bacteria to grow.
- Never use any abrasive scrub pads, hard tools, or steel wool to rub or scrub the surface of the bathtub. This can cause the bathtub to crack and start showing marks and scratches.
- Stay away from products that are too hard for the bathtub. Stay away from paint thinners as they have the same effect of an abrasive scrub pad or steel wool on the bathtub.
- Don’t work with chemicals without any form of ventilation. The ventilation can be in the form of a window or an exhaust fan. Working in enclosed situations with these chemicals can cause fumes that can be harmful to the lungs and the skin of the user.
- Don’t have all your hopes on one product. Use the products that are most suited for the area and the work.
- It is important to let the disinfectant sit on the surface of the bathtub for at least 5 minutes.
- Don’t just clean the dirty area. Many of us think that it is enough to clean the dirt and stain from the visible area or in the areas that have the stain. Nothing could be further from the truth. Clean the whole bathtub and bathroom for a clean and germ-free environment. Clean the sides, hidden areas, inside the structure and all around to make sure that your bathtub is free of any stains and bacteria.
- Trim your shower curtain to match your bathtub. When the shower liner hits the bathtub, the area is too wide and can act as an easy breeding ground for mold and mildew.
View the full bathtub cleaning guide at TheHandyNest.com.
This post originally appeared at TheHandyNest.com. Reprinted with permissions. Copyright 2017.
By Amalie Drury, guest contributor
A great outdoor space is at the top of many home buyers’ checklists. So even if your listing doesn’t include a large lawn or an over-the-top patio, it’s important to show buyers that the home still offers the perks of an indoor-outdoor lifestyle. Be sure to avoid these common outdoor staging mistakes.
1. Overgrown Landscaping
Banish the weeds, and trim the bushes. Nothing makes a house look unloved faster than an overgrown lawn or a patio with dandelions poking through every crack. If the home’s current owners aren’t around to keep the landscaping in check, encourage them to hire a weekly service for the duration of the listing.
2. Lack of Furniture
It’s hard to imagine reading on the porch or serving dinner on the patio when there’s no furniture around. On the other hand, if buyers see a dining table with a festive umbrella or a pair of cushioned lounge chairs with a side table for drinks, they’ll perceive the space as valuable additional square footage where they can unwind with family or entertain.
3. Dust and Dirt
When patios and walkways go unused, they collect a layer of grime that should be removed when staging the home. Consider pressure washing surfaces and pay special attention when sweeping and dusting spots like exterior window ledges, thresholds, and basement stairwells.
To the buyer’s eye, certain items your sellers are used to seeing in their yard or on their patio can look like unwanted junk. Encourage your sellers to clear the clutter. Plastic storage boxes, toys (except for nice swing sets, which can be appealing in family neighborhoods), tools, faded furniture cushions, dated lawn sculptures, rusty grills … all must go.
5. No Flowers
In the right season, colorful blooms in containers, window boxes, or beds can greatly improve the perception of a home’s exterior and outdoor space. Even in winter, you can fill planters with greenery and berries to welcome potential buyers and make the home appear cozy and well tended.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amalie Drury is an expert on home design and furniture trends, writing on behalf of Crate and Barrel. She has covered related topics as a senior editor for magazine publisher Modern Luxury and as a city editor for women’s lifestyle site PureWow. She has also written for Time Out, the Chicago Tribune, and Sophisticated Living.
By Julea Joseph, guest contributor
Make sure you show off the living room in your listings. Here are some simple lessons in staging your living room to give a great impression.
Choose an on trend color palette that will appeal to buyers and showcase your home’s amenities. Tone on tone creates flow and space.
A simple, opened room arrangement explains the room’s purpose, and also sells square footage.
Add lifestyle defining accessories to create a story of how one could use the room. Create layers to give the space warmth and character.
Make sure to update, uncomplicate and unify interior decorating selections, such as window treatments and hardware.
Abbreviated doesn’t have to be boring.
These simple lessons in home staging should inspire a vision of the art of home staging. There is always the smart choice of hiring a home staging professional who can provide you with expert vision, those desired on trend ideas, and proper packaging of a home.
This post originally appeared at Tales of an Interior Stylist. Reprinted with permissions. Copyright 2017.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Julea Joseph is the owner and lead designer at Reinventing Space in Chicago. Visit her website and blog at Julea.com.
By Patti Stern, PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating
This spring has been one of our busiest home staging seasons with many sellers enjoying the benefits of preparing their homes early and marketing to targeted buyers – boosting the value of their property and selling quickly. However, there are sellers who are hesitant and still need convincing that home staging – whether occupied or vacant – is a worthwhile investment, even in a hot market. Several key points can help overcome sellers’ uncertainty and assure them that staging before listing is a win-win decision.
1. Basic updates boost perceived value
Today’s buyers are looking for an updated home in move-in ready condition and will usually pay more if they feel good about it. Simple updates such as freshly painted walls in universally appealing neutral colors, modern lighting, and polished hardwood floors make an immediate statement online and in person and will ultimately yield a quicker sale for top dollar.
2. Helps buyers connect
Some buyers can be turned off by the cold feeling of an empty room or distracted by dated furnishings that suggest the home is old and neglected. According to the Real Estate Staging Association, a vacant property can take up to 78 percent more time to sell than comparable furnished homes. And with 95 percent of vacant or occupied staged homes selling in 11 days or less, there is no question that adding inviting style with modern furnishings helps buyers envision living in a space and get a better idea how a room can be used to fit their lifestyle.
3. Enhances key features
Buyers who can’t look passed dated carpeting or clutter that hides key features will most likely walk away immediately. Choosing a neutral palette with the right furniture arrangement and simple, elegant accents will allow architectural features to become a focal point, increase the perceived size of rooms and improve overall flow and ultimately make the property more memorable.
4. Bedrooms are valuable real estate
Every decision that is made when marketing a home to sell should focus on the targeted buyer’s lifestyle and needs. An experienced stager will provide recommendations for what style furnishings and décor will be appropriate based on the demographics you want to attract to the property. For example, an extra bedroom that is now serving as an office, hobby room, or gym should be converted back into a bedroom to appeal to millennials with young kids (see photo above).
5. Less stress
A professional stager will eliminate stress by making the home selling process turnkey for clients. They will manage the entire process to make a property market-ready — from paint color selection, lighting updates, window treatments, floor refinishing, furniture rentals to packing and organizing services. They will do whatever it takes to appeal to as many buyers as possible and get the property sold quickly and for top dollar.
For more examples of interior decorating and home staging, visit www.pjstagingdecorating.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patti Stern, principal, interior decorator and professional stager of PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating, has been decorating and staging homes since 2005. She and her team provide turnkey, full service home staging and interior decorating to clients across Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts. She also developed an award winning staging program for luxury homebuilder, Toll Brothers. Her company has received Houzz 2015 and 2016 Awards for Customer Service. Stern has been featured in Connecticut Magazine, the Hartford Courant, Danbury News-Times and on NBC Connecticut and FOX TV. She is a regular contributor to REALTOR® Magazine’s Styled, Staged and Sold. For more information, contact Patti Stern at 203-640-3762 or firstname.lastname@example.org
By Michele DiGirolamo, Guest Contributor from MoneyGeek.com
If you’re in the market for a new home, there’s a way to save the environment and some cash at the same time: Consider a “green” mortgage.
An energy-efficient mortgage (EEM), the umbrella term for these types of loans, allows buyers to fold expenses for energy-saving home improvements into their mortgage.
EEMs are an option if you’re buying or building a home and you want to add energy-efficient features, if you’re refinancing a mortgage for a home you already own and want to add energy-efficient renovations, or if you’re buying a new home that is already energy-efficient.
The idea is that, in the long run, the money saved on monthly utility bills will offset the higher mortgage payment. The projected energy savings from the lower bills could also qualify buyers for a larger loan amount and a better, more energy-efficient home.
And at the point of resale, homeowners will likely benefit again, as the energy upgrades can boost the home’s value and attract buyers in a competitive market.
Improving Your Home’s Energy Efficiency
Green mortgages can be used to finance a range of energy-efficient upgrades, from weather stripping to new heating and cooling systems to double-pane windows and solar panels.
A required home energy audit provides recommendations for energy-saving improvements and estimates of the costs and savings of those improvements. Lenders use this information to determine how much you’ll save in energy costs with each improvement.
Fannie Mae, the Federal Housing Administration, and the Department of Veterans Affairs all offer a version of EEMs. The amount of energy improvements a borrower can finance varies by program, ranging from about 5 percent of the value of the property through an FHA loan to around 15 percent with a conventional mortgage. A VA EEM, available to military personnel, caps energy improvements at $3,000 to $6,000.
Understanding the Green Mortgage Lending Process
While securing an EEM can be fairly simple for the borrower, it can be cumbersome for lenders unaccustomed to the process of managing the “work flow” of the energy improvements, says Tonya Todd, senior vice president of strategic products at Mountain West Financial in Redlands, California. This may be why they aren’t more common.
“The loan itself is easy; it’s the facilitation that takes some work,” Todd says. “Lenders that are successful at this will find a local energy-efficient mortgage facilitator. The facilitator handles everything from A to Z to ensure a smooth and timely process for all parties.”
The facilitator works with the buyer, the energy rater, the contractor, the realtor and the lender to keep everything moving to avoid delays.
“After closing, the facilitator will ensure the installation of the energy improvements are completed,” she adds. “It just makes everything much smoother.”
So, if you’re interested in pursuing an EEM, go for it — just be aware you may have to put some effort into finding a lender.
“Niche lenders do offer these programs and do them well,” Todd says. “However, a lot of lenders do not offer them because they do not understand the operational component, or they don’t have the support system internally.”
More Homeowners Are Going Green
While they’ve been around in some form since the 1990s, eco-friendly mortgages even today are not particularly well-known. But that could be changing, Todd says.
“Energy-efficient measures are becoming more popular especially as homeowners are purchasing older homes that may not be so environmentally friendly,” Todd adds. “People are more aware of being green. That’s why homeowners are looking for features that will help them save energy.”
The average household spends more than $2,200 a year on energy bills, with nearly half of that going to heating and cooling costs, according to the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection’s Energy Star program. There are significant savings to be had by improving a home’s energy efficiency.
Other Ways to ‘Green’ Your Home
Even if you’re not in the market for a green mortgage, there are measures you can take around your house to save energy and reduce your utility bills. The following are some tips — some simple, some more involved — from the Energy Star program and other experts:
- Turn your hot water heater’s thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Keep your refrigerator at 37-40 degrees and freezer at 5 degrees.
- Install and properly use a programmable thermostat (this can save about $180 annually).
- Install low-flow fixtures.
- Do only full loads in the washer and dishwasher.
- Fix any leaky faucets, toilets, pipes, and your roof.
- Seal heating and cooling ducts (in the typical house, about 20 percent of the air in a duct system is lost due to leaks, holes, and poorly connected ducts).
- Seal the “envelope” of your home – the outer walls, ceiling, windows, and floor (this can save 20 percent on heating and cooling costs).
- Replace the filters on your air conditioning unit, dryer, and furnace.
- Turn off ceiling fans when you’re not home.
- Set ceiling fans counter-clockwise in the summer to draw cooler air upward.
- Dust your refrigerator coils.
- Plant shade trees to cool your home.
- Request a home energy audit for more tips and advice.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michele DiGirolamo is a former longtime reporter for United Press International and a freelance writer for MoneyGeek.com.
Provided by Principal Homebuyers