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Crystal Halley

Associate Broker

Crystal's Blog Corner

Home Buying Checklist: What Else Does 'Location' Mean?


"Location, location, location" are the cornerstones of property value and neighborhood popularity. Evaluating this seemingly-simple, triple-impact factor goes beyond merely checking out the street address.

Yes, proximity to the places you and family members regularly must or want to visit is an important factor in identifying an ideal location. However, there's more to accessing location than an address.


Walkability has many definitions which largely differ by walking purpose: destination-driven, exercising, socializing, exploring, enjoying the outdoors…. Measures of walkability can be useful and may add to market value, but these scores are not absolute, so investigate the reference source and measurement approach. Experiment by walking where you and family members would walk and when. There may be obstacles, like very busy streets, that would affect whether walking would be the best transportation choice.
Nearby Shopping used to be a big location factor, but online shopping has taken the shine off this convenience for many buyers. In some areas, malls are falling into disrepair and closing. Would that be a concern for you? In other locations, new large-scale commercial ventures are underway in or closer to residential areas. How would you feel about having a big box store on your doorstep?
Developments especially large-scale projects, condominium towers, multiple-housing complexes, and commercial ventures, increase density, traffic, noise, and  pressure on schools and community services. Years of planning and arguing proceed ground breaking, so today's quiet streets may reveal little sign of what will begin once you move in. Ask a lot of questions about local development.
Street Status exists in most neighborhoods, which themselves each carry different status. Certain streets confer status on residents. Which street, side of the street, or end of the street carries greater real estate value or status? One end of the street may be closer to shopping and the other to parks. What do you value regarding physical location?
Sunshine is valued by most buyers, even though they may appreciate it for different reasons, ranging from gardening to solar energy. In some areas, south-facing backyards are more popular and, in others, it's south-facing fronts. What is blocking sunlight to the property now and what might block it in the future?

Neighbors may include Airbnb hosts and other home-based business owners, some of whom may conduct their ventures in ways that end up disturbing neighbors. Many municipalities and police receive complaints from homeowners concerned about what businesses are doing around their property.

Schools particularly popular ones, can be a big influence on a location decision for those with children to educate.

Transportation carries different importance for different buyers. Have public transit and road systems kept pace with rising population in the area? Are neighborhood-changing transportation projects like rapid transit scheduled to begin in the next year or so? Will the bulk of related construction stress fall near this property?

Infrastructure is an often-overlooked factor. How recently have bridges and main roads, essential for access to the area and downtown, been up-dated and up-graded? Have water and sewage

services been upgraded to serve growing populations? Or, will you face months, if not years, of "under construction" streets around your home?

Water Supply and shortages can be an issue. Droughts seem more common and last longer. How prepared is the community to handle water shortage? Do summer shortages affect lawn watering and landscaping, making local drought-resistant plants and no-grass front yards essential? Are bush fires a recurring threat?

Flooding in low-lying areas and drainage basins can be a threat. Could rising water plague that real estate or the immediate area or access? How affordable and attainable is property

flood insurance in this area? When was the last time flooding was an issue and what happened during clean up? If the property is waterfront, is shore erosion or rising water an issue? Is the waterfront often fouled with dead algae or other smelly matter?

Traffic is more of a concern in urban areas. Is the residential area under traffic calming and speed-management strategies to reduce rush-hour traffic through the area? If there are speed bumps, how are fire and emergency vehicles affected? Is there a plan to add or remove traffic calming and why?

Airplanes can disrupt family life even if a property is not close to an airport. The increase in frequency of planes taking off and landing at all hours has many neighborhoods, even those distant from airports, plagued by airplane noise. Circling a city to land, means planes travel over many homes drowning out conversations and disrupting sleep. Just popping in for an open house or viewing may not make you aware of a noisy flight-path problem.


Landscaping and mature trees enhance neighborhoods. Large trees can present hazards as they age. Are trees downed in storms replaced? What invader species are working their way through the area to undermine outdoor enjoyment?


Pollution — air, noise, or water —is a problem in some areas? What is being done to reduce the ill-effects for residents?

Taxes are a key location-driven affordability factor. All of the above can impact how quickly property taxes and municipal fees go up. What's the pattern of increase in the area? How does local government raise the funds it needs to maintain quality of life in the area?



9 Silly Little Things That Could Be Sabotaging Your Home Sale


If your home is in pretty good shape (i.e. it's decently updated and not in need of a total overhaul), you might think it's ready to go on the market as is. But little things you wouldn't expect can end up being deal breakers. And, when you've got competition, you need your home to stand out for all the right reasons. Give your home a good look and address the little things now before they become big problems when buyers are balking.

Cords hanging from your mounted TV

This is one of those things that tends to fade into the background in a home we live in every day. But don't be surprised if new eyes go right to those dangling cords and wonder why you didn't take the next step and hide them in the wall. Anything that makes a potential buyer question whether you cut corners or were lazy elsewhere could spell bad news for your home sale.

An unkempt yard

So, you had your landscapers out to clean out your flower beds, trim the bushes, plant colorful new blooms and mulch everything. And then, the night before a showing, a storm blew a whole mess of leaves into your yard. Grab that rake and make it a family affair out on the lawn at dawn. You know what they say about first impressions. Buyers likely won't be forgiving of a messy lawn, and your house may stand out if they can see the effort made to clean it up when the neighbors' yards are still 15-deep in leaves.

A dingy front door

Again with the first impressions. Your home may look great inside, but if the front door is chipped or faded, or the hardware is worn, your potential buyers may never get past it. This is an easy fix, and one that consistently rates high on the ROI scale.


While homebuyers in general may not mind if animals live in the home they are considering purchasing (unless there are severe allergy issues), they don't want to see - and, especially, smell - evidence of them. You have probably gathered up and stowed away the overflowing box of toys and balls. But have you considered the smell? You might not notice it, but first-time visitors likely will.

You don't have to rehome your pets; Use these tips from petMD to make your home smell pet-free.


Even if you keep a pretty clean home, there may be areas that need attention, like ceiling fans or windowsills that are out of reach. You may not have a housekeeper on a regular basis, but doing a one-time, super deep clean before your home hits the market is a good way to make sure potential buyers don't nitpick and find a reason to question the home's condition.

Poor furniture arrangement

If you're rolling your eyes at the idea that the way you have your living room laid out could make a difference in whether or not your home sells, remember back to when you saw the home for the first time. Were you picturing your own furniture in the space? That's what real buyers do, and if they can't picture how it will work because you have too much stuff in the space or it's oddly configured - blocking a fireplace or doorway, for instance - you're keeping them from doing the thing that could make them buy the home.

"Square footage is important to homebuyers, so when you're selling a house it's important to maximize the space to appear bigger and highlight each room's dual functionality to enhance buyer appeal," said U.S. News & World Report. "A home seller can do this by decluttering, lighting up the room and especially by having your furniture strategically placed to show off the square footage. The layout will determine the visual size and flow of the room." You can learn more staging tips for arranging your furniture here.

Junk drawers and crammed cabinets

Buyers who are genuinely interested in your home are likely going to open everything and look everywhere. It's not snooping (at least, we hope it's not snooping!) - it's an interest in how much storage there is in the home. You may be forgiven for one "junk drawer," but the neater and cleaner you can make everything else, the better. You want people to see the space, not your stuff.

Overfilled closets

The need to showcase the space, not the stuff, goes double for closets. "Whether it's a hallway coat closet or a master suite walk-in, your home's closets will have a major big impact on prospective buyers," said Apartment Therapy. "Box up off-season apparel - or better yet, donate it - and remove extra hangers so yours looks spacious and streamlined."

Cluttered countertops

Eliminating, or at least cutting down on, clutter in your home is key to getting it sale-ready, and this is especially important in kitchens and bathrooms. While people may be impressed by your professional mixer and juicer, they're much more interested in knowing they have ample countertop space for their own stuff.


3 Signs That itís Time to Replace Your Kitchen


The kitchen is the hub of the home. This is the room where you can take a breather and get stuck into cooking, eating or drinking. As this is such an important place for many people, it’s only natural that you would want this space to enhance the atmosphere that you want to create in your kitchen.

So, you may be considering redecorating or even completely replacing your kitchen, but how do you know when it’s the right time?

#1 - Shabby and Outdated Units

The kitchens of 20 and even 10 years ago are easy to spot when you compare them to new, modern kitchen designs. While beige tiles and white plastic-looking units may have once been popular, these now look incredibly outdated compared to the sleek, stylish kitchens of present day.

If you’re looking for a more modern look, you could try out some contemporary trends. Mixing materials such as brickwork and wood, or using statement shelving to provide utility and style are exciting trends to try out that can help to update your kitchen, giving you the perfect excuse to replace your kitchen.

#2 - Lack of Utility by Design

One great feature of modern kitchens is the built-in utility that is often completely missing in older kitchen designs. So, if you often find yourself searching the cupboards for that one pan lid that always seems to go missing, just as you need to steam some vegetables, it may be worth considering replacing your kitchen for a more utilitarian design.

The kitchen pictured below from Lakeland Kitchens is the perfect example of a kitchen design that offers an element of utility as well as a stylish design. By building in storage features into a space that would otherwise be wasted, you can fit a lot more into the area you have. In older kitchens, there is often an awful lot of wasted space, so replacing your kitchen may well give you the opportunity to take advantage of extra room within your kitchen.

#3 - Cabinets and Kitchen Features are Worn or Damaged

Kitchen furniture and units have to hold up against a great deal of wear and tear. The kitchen can offer a range of conditions that are often not ideal for the materials used within the kitchen. From moisture to grease, your cabinets and units are put under a lot of stress from daily use.

If you notice that your cabinets have warped, become soft or are showing signs of mold, it may be time to start thinking about having your kitchen replaced. If you have this sort of damage in your kitchen, it’s only a matter of time before you start facing real issues in your kitchen, so it’s always a good idea to get a head start.

There are plenty of signs that suggest that it’s time to replace your kitchen, but with so many fantastic looks and designs to choose from, do you really need an excuse to start designing the kitchen of your dreams?



Eight Signs It's Time To Move Up


The starter home. It was so cute and quaint and sweet when you bought it, right? But, that was before kids and dogs and overnight quests and holiday dinners that require mathematician-level logistics to finding everyone a seat in a dining room that bursts at six people.

Let's face it: It's probably time to move up. Lack of space is the No. 1 reason people start looking for a larger home. Families expand, lifestyles change, and the sheer accumulation of stuff can make a small home feel even tighter. "More than a third of all homebuyers last year were families with kids," said Dave Ramsey. "And 37% of sellers age 36 and under cited cramped quarters as their reason for moving."

But running out of room not the only reason to consider moving up.

You've got the equity

You may have had to scrimp and save for the down payment on your first home, but, if your home has appreciated, you may be in a completely different financial position this time around. If you're the type who envisions paying off your home and being free and clear, moving up may not be on your mind. But, for the rest of us, having equity in our current home means greater buying power to buy something bigger or get into a neighborhood we covet.

You're at each other's throats

Feeling cramped and living in clutter and hating that you don't have a space of your own or even a minute to yourself? That can create stress and leave you feeling anxious and overwhelmed. And, it goes against the general principle of homeownership since your home is supposed to be your sanctuary! Having some extra room to spread out and yard for the kids and dogs to play in can make a real difference in the way your family functions.

Ask yourself if "your quality of life is suffering," said Unpakt. "This category can include many things: your ever-growing pack of dogs or cats who are driving you crazy. Your cascading piles of fabrics that you use for quilting, but just can't keep organized in your current space. The lack of a guest room means that when family visits, you're stuck on the couch. Whatever it might be, if your quality of life has taken a nosedive because your house is too small, well, the answer is pretty clear." 

The neighborhood is changing…and not for the better

One of the reasons you may want to start looking at a new house is because your neighborhood is starting to evolve. Maybe there are new restaurants and bars that have attracted a different crowd or plans for a huge mixed-use project that, while great for the economic potential in the area, could mean more traffic than you want in your quiet little town. Even something like a change in the flight patterns from the local airport can get you thinking about that next home.

Remodeling is price prohibitive

A good real estate agent should be able to give you an idea of what necessary (or wanted) renovations would cost to your existing home. It could be that the amount of work you would need to do on your home to get it where you want it - or get it into tip-top shape for a sale - is beyond what you want to spend. In that case, it might make better financial sense to make small improvements, put it up for sale, and put your money into a new home that better suits your needs.

You don't want to over-improve for the neighborhood

The other important factor to consider when deciding whether to move or improve your home is how the redone home would sit in your neighborhood. You don't want to run the risk of doing a bunch of expensive renovations only to have the home sit on the market because it's overdone and considered overpriced.

"Weighing against renovation is the risk you'll ‘over-improve' your home compared with others on the block," said Bankrate. "When you are in a neighborhood that has starter homes and smaller homes, adding a large addition or doing an extensive renovation may not yield the return one would expect."

Everyone else has moved on

So, your kids were young and bicycles and basketball nets lined the street when you first fell in love with your home. At the time, it was everything you were looking for. But now, so many of those families have moved on, and the lively street you loved has turned rather sleepy. If you're still holding on to the memories of what your neighborhood once was, maybe it's time to find one that better meets your lifestyle needs today.

You've crunched the numbers

Presumably, a move-up home is going to be more expensive. Beyond the equity you can use to make the purchase doable, you have to consider the monthly expenses, too. "It's not just the sticker price on the house; it's the long-term costs associated with it," said Realtor.com. "When you go up (in square footage), you get higher property taxes, higher utilities, and more maintenance." And acquiring more rooms means shelling out for more furniture, too.

You can make sure you can afford a move-up home without becoming "house poor" by "using online affordability calculators to figure out how far you can stretch your dollar.


Easy Ways To Lower Your Energy Usage At Home


California just became the first state to require solar panels on every new home starting in 2020 in a landmark move for state building regulations and "government controls over climate-warming carbon emissions," said NBC News. This will be a huge plus for home buyers who were already looking for ways to be greener, but there is a downside, albeit one with a long-term potential upside: the cost.

"The average estimated cost of a solar system is $9,500, or $40 a month when amortized over a 30-year mortgage," they said. "But the systems are projected to save customers an average of $80 a month on their utility bills."

Thankfully, there are a number of other options out there for eco-friendly living that are low cost, and many of them are also low effort.

"To reduce energy consumption in your home, you do not necessarily need to go out and purchase energy efficient products," said Energy Sage. "Energy conservation can be as simple as turning off lights or appliances when you do not need them. The behavior adjustments that have the highest potential for utility savings are turning down the heat on your thermostat in the winter and using your air conditioner less in the summer. Heating and cooling costs constitute nearly half of an average home's utility bills, so these reductions in the intensity and frequency of heating and cooling offer the greatest savings."

Here are some other easy ways to save energy (and money):

Ditch the plastic

Some states have already banned plastic bags at the supermarket and many places are also in the process of changing over from plastic straws to paper straws. You can apply the same concept at home. An easy way to start is by ditching your plastic bottle habit. Instead of buying 36-packs of bottled water, grab a Britta filter instead.

Go meatless on Monday

"The one single factor in our diets that contributes the most to our carbon footprint is meat," said Tastemade. "Those who eat a lot have double the carbon footprint of those who are vegan. Animals, and livestock, in particular, require a lot more resources like water and grain to raise and process than, say, a head of lettuce." Experts say that a family of four who regularly eliminates meat from one meal a week can have the same environmental impact as driving a hybrid.

Use less water

If you can't break your long shower habit, think about other easy ways you can conserve water, like: turning off the faucet when you're brushing your teeth and only running your washing machine when it's full. Lowering the water temp from high to medium or even cold, where possible, is another great way to lower your energy usage.

Use the dishwasher

You might think you're saving water by doing dishes by hand, but the opposite is often true. "Doing a full load in your machine is far more efficient than washing the same number of dishes by hand," said This Old House. "This is especially true if you have an Energy Star dishwasher, which requires an average of four gallons of water per load, compared with the 24 gallons it takes to do them in the sink. Using one will save you 5,000 gallons of water, $40 in utility costs, and 230 hours of your time each year."

Donate to declutter

"By some estimates, for every item of clothing donated, 27 pounds of carbon emissions are reduced based on the fact that you don't another item being produced while one is headed to the landfill," said Real Simple. Take your things to a thrift store or donate to a charity, instead. Your donations will be tax deductible, and you'll feel great as you start to declutter your place.

Get a Costco membership

There are so many great reasons to shop at Costco, like the free samples and the $1.50 hot dog and soda combo. Buying products in bulk also "reduces the amount of packaging needed, thus providing considerable benefits to the environment," said Conserve Energy Future.

Get to stepping

"Walking is simply the most environmentally-friendly way of getting from A to B," said walkit.com. "It uses no fossil fuels, produces no air pollution, and is generally a pretty quiet way of getting about. So if you're keen to go green, switching from driving to walking for short journeys is one of the easiest ways to make a real difference." And, it's good for your heart, too!

Switch out your household cleaners for something greener

Switching to green cleaners can reduce pollution in the air inside and out of your home, "minimizing exposure to both asthma and allergy triggers as well as chemicals that can be harmful to your health," said Real Simple. "Look for plant-based products from companies that have a complete list of ingredients on their labels."

Learn basic composting

If you do want to get your hands a little dirty, composting offers multiple benefits, including reducing the amount of waste in landfills lowering the emission of methane while food is decomposing. "An awful lot of people have said an awful lot about composting," said Attainable Sustainable. "Mostly, they make it sound like an awful lot of work. Let me clear the air: composting is easy. You do not have to do anything to turn your kitchen scraps and garden waste into compost. Mother Nature will do it for you. Passive composting is an easy way to turn your waste into a useful product without much work on your part at all. You do not have to have a fancy composter. All you need is a place to put your compost pile. And that's all it has to be: a pile. Dump your kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, and leaves in a pile and forget about it."


Summer Savers: 9 Things You Can Do Now To Protect Your Home Before The Heat Hits



Things are heating up and school is winding down. That mean's summer is right around the corner. Summer is hot and sweaty and often with expensive cooling costs. There are things you can do and changes you can make now to save money this summer.

Have your sprinkler system and outdoor faucets looked at

Sprinkler heads that are malfunctioning or not working at all, could harm your grass and cost you money to replace it. Leaky outdoor faucets could also increased water bills.

Do a leak check inside

Cold air escaping and hot air intruding - it's the reality of many a home, and not only can it make you feel uncomfortable, it can make your air conditioner work overtime. "For a thorough and accurate measurement of air leakage in your home, hire a qualified technician to conduct an energy audit, particularly a blower door test," said the U.S. Department of Energy. "A blower door test, which depressurizes a home, can reveal the location of many leaks."

Do an appliance check

Have a mixer, blender, and knife sharpener plugged in on your kitchen countertop? How often do you really use any of these items? The more you unplug, the less energy you use.

Have your A/C unit checked and serviced

With air conditioning, you catch little issues before they become giant, expensive ones. "There are two main reasons to schedule annual air conditioner maintenance with your local HVAC contractor: saving money and saving money (no that isn't a typo)," said HomeAdvisor. "Your A/C technician will catch small problems before they become big ones through regular check-ups. Repairing a small refrigerant leak shouldn't cost much more than the service call. When your A/C is running well it uses less energy to cool your house, saving on your monthly utility bills."

Remember to change your filters regularly, too. According to Energy.gov, "The most important maintenance task that will ensure the efficiency of your air conditioner is to routinely replace or clean its filters. Replacing a dirty, clogged filter with a clean one can lower your air conditioner's energy consumption by 5% to 15%."

Use the toaster instead of the oven

The heat from the oven can raise the temp in your home, causing your air conditioner to turn on. Using smaller appliances - your slow cooker is another idea - can help keep the temperature lower. Even better, use your outdoor grill, instead!

Cover up

Windows that are exposed to afternoon sun can heat up the house quickly, undermining your A/C and making everyone in the house uncomfortable.

"Air conditioning is blissful during the summer, but running it nonstop during a heat wave will have you cursing when you get your utility bill," said Consumer Reports. "Fortunately, clever use of blinds, curtains, and other window treatments can help keep your house cool and your bills in check. The Department of Energy says that smart management of window coverings can reduce heat gain by up to 77 percent."

Cover up inside and out for the best protection. "Studies show that medium-colored draperies with white plastic backings can reduce heat gain by 33 percent, according to the DOE. Horizontal slats, when completely closed, highly reflective blinds can reduce heat gain by around 45 percent, says the DOE. They can also be adjusted to block and reflect direct sunlight onto a light-colored ceiling, which diffuses the light without much heat or glare."

Outside, consider solar screens, or awnings. "Window awnings can reduce solar heat gain by up to 65 percent on south-facing windows and 77 percent on west-facing windows, according to the DOE."

Turn up the temperature

That goes against the whole "keeping the house cool" thing, right? But, if you can stand it, a few ticks up on the thermostat can lower your costs. "According to Energy Star, almost half the energy used in your home goes toward heating and cooling. Even making small adjustments, such as turning up your air conditioning by only one degree, can make a huge difference," said Huffington Post. "For each degree you reduce your air conditioning, it's estimated you'll save 3 percent on your utility bills. You can also save money by using a programmable thermostat. When used correctly, a programmable thermostat saves the average family $180 per year."

Get a learning thermostat

Unlike old-school thermostats that you can program for different times and days, products like Nest actually learn from you, and your house, which can then save you money. "Why should you have to figure out your thermostat? The Nest Thermostat learns from you," said Nest. "Just turn it up and down for the first few days. The Nest Thermostat will get to know the temperatures you like and when you like them. Then it programs itself and creates a schedule for you. The Nest Thermostat even learns from your home and figures out how it heats or cools, because no two homes are exactly the same."

Add insulation

The upfront expense will will pay dividends later when your energy bills go down. "Adding insulation to prevent leaky ducts, walls, windows, and doors can improve your home's energy draw by 20 to 30 percent," said Real Simple.


Effective Staging Ideas Can Transform Your Home


Appearance is crucial when selling your home. Making your home look sensational will go a long way in being able to get what you want out of the property. It's here that staging comes into play. But many homeowners aren't able to afford the cost of a professional stager. Thankfully, you don't have to turn to a professional. There are a number of things that you can do on your own to transform the look of your home.

#1 Pack up your personal items.

Packing up all of your personal effects is one of the cheapest and simplest ways to prep your condo or home for sale. Removing your personal touches will help a potential buyer to see the home as their own. Sometimes your personal items can make that difficult. Pictures, artwork and other decor are more distracting than you realize. Hide them in the basement or a storage space while conducting tours.

#2 Get rid of the clutter.

Getting rid of any excess clutter is a great way to get potential buyers to look at your home. Sometimes emotional attachments can make throwing out clutter difficult. It's easy to gather clutter if you have lived in the same home for years. Excess items can have a negative impact on how your potential buyers view your property. De-clutter your home as much as you can to attract more buyers.

#3 Rearrange and neutralize your rooms.

Even though you might enjoy the blue walls in your bedroom, that doesn't mean a potential buyer will. Loud or eclectic design elements might make a potential buyer think about all of the work that they have to put into the home. The best thing you can do is to repaint your roomsa neutral color, like white, tan or cream. This will appeal to more buyers and allow them to visualize their own decor in the home.

Consider rearranging the furniture in your rooms to increase their functionality. Think about how to show potential buyers how much they could do with a room. Maximizing space is crucial when selling a home.


#4 Eliminate smells and stains by deodorizing and scrubbing your home.

No buyer wants to walk into a home that is dirty and smelly. The best thing you can do is scrub everything from floor to ceiling before having an open house. You don't want any dirt, dust or odors lurking around the home. You want to make sure your property shines as much as you can. Greet buyers with a clean, fresh smell in every room. If you're short on time, hire a cleaning service. A pro will save you time and ensure a spotless home.

#5 Replace the hardware around your home.

Most homeowners can afford to replace the hardware around their home. Focus on your doors and kitchen first. Next, make your way through the rest of the home. Swapping out your old hardware with new hardware can make a big difference in how your cabinets and doors look.


In going through the tips above, you can quickly transform the appearance of your home. Even making these small changes can make a major difference in how potential buyers view your home. You don't need to spend a fortune staging your home. Instead, invest some time and effort in making a difference in the way your home looks.


Fresh, New Backsplash Trends To Update Your Kitchen


Tired of seeing white subway tile on every kitchen backsplash? You're not alone. And while the tile will always be a classic (even if it feels overworked right now), there are a number of options that will add a fresh, new look to your kitchen.

Create a showstopper

In a kitchen where everything else is neutral, or at least a bit tamer, an eye-popping backsplash can be just what you need to create a killer kitchen.

Go for one big pop

Moroccan tiles and other brightly colored and intricately patterned confections are everywhere, but it can be overwhelming to think about running something so bold throughout your kitchen. Identifying one key spot where you can let it rip may be the answer. "Minimalism loves maximalism, translated, is a peripheral trend toward a clean, simple design framework which features a single, bold focal point of colorful florals or other bright patterns or colors," said Design Milk. "It's a pleasant antidote to straight lines and introduces color, warmth and visual emotion in a surprising yet modern design statement -- a backlash from recent years of minimalism in our interiors."


Bring in concrete

Especially if you're going with concrete for your countertops, running it up part or all of the wall can create a winning look. "Concrete is making its way up from the floor to the countertops and we love the look," said Emily Henderson. "Concrete gives you quite a bit of liberty when it comes to customization as well as color and it is also a very affordable option. But it isn't just for counters, your walls can look just as chic in the material. These lighter toned walls with a slight texture are so beautiful and have a wonderful color variance to them."


4 of the Best and Worst Home Improvement Projects


Considering some potential home improvement projects in the near future? If that's the case, it's imperative you do your homework. While some renovation ideas tend to add value to one's home, others equate to throwing money down the drain and getting nothing in return.

With this in mind, here are four of the best and worst home renovation ideas, as well as some resources that can help you decide what to improve and what to leave as is:

Learn What Offers the Biggest Bang for Your Buck

Each year, Remodeling magazine conducts an in-depth survey of experts to determine which home improvement projects offer the highest and lowest return on investment. Dubbed the Cost vs. Value Report, it compares the typical costs of 29 common renovations that were completed by professionals in 99 major cities. Talk about an excellent primer of ideas.

Yet another great resource for homeowners is answers to commonly asked questions about construction, including many that relate to home renovation. By visiting credible websites for some much-needed inspiration, homeowners can put their focus and funds on projects that will make the biggest impact.

1. Good: Kitchens and Bathrooms

According to HGTV, splurging for a kitchen and/or bathroom remodel is typically a wise investment, one that usually nets homeowners with 100 percent ROI. For example, basic kitchen renovations typically run about $15,000. And in cities like Miami and New Orleans, homeowners who then later put their home on the market recouped top dollar in total resale value.

As for specific projects that offer the most bang for your buck, upgrading your cabinets to solid-wood options, countertops with a new stone or quartz finish and/or flooring with a stone mosaic are all safe options.

2. Bad: A Second Bathroom

For homes with only one bathroom, the thought of adding a second one (even a half bathroom) makes good financial sense, especially if you plan to one day sell it. And while you may very well appreciate having an extra lavatory on hand for your family, be advised that you may not necessarily recoup the full renovation cost when putting your home up for sale.

Simply put, adding a new bathroom is an expensive proposition, one that can run you a hefty $25,000. However, in most cases, homeowners can expect to receive an estimated 60 percent ROI. Bottom line: If you have no intention of moving — and have the necessary funds available — adding on a second bathroom could very well be a worthwhile endeavor.

Of course, if you're weighing your home's resale value, there are certainly better ways to spend your hard-earned money.

3. Good: Curb Appeal

Homeowners can invest thousands of dollars to upgrade their kitchen and ensuite bathroom, but if your front lawn and trees look shabby, potential buyers will drive on by. As Improvenet.com notes, you can easily make a number of budget-friendly and relatively minor exterior improvements that will increase your curb appeal exponentially.

In fact, for less than $100, you can rent a power washer to clean off the driveway, sidewalk and porch, and then spend some time cleaning up the yard and putting or throwing away old lawn furniture. Add a fresh coat of paint on the front door and spring for new, stylish house numbers and voilà — you just breathed some serious new life into your home.

4. Bad: Anything Over the Top

Before springing for that enormous and expensive commercial grade gas stove and pricey custom marble shower, research the local listings to see what features similar homes offer. Instead of making any number of over-the-top renovations, you should err on the side of caution and choose more modestly priced and classic upgrades.

This doesn’t mean you have to select low-quality or unattractive finishes, as you can certainly still replace any old or cracked floor tiles with an attractive and durable tile that looks like wood. And heavens knows how much you'll save by choosing to not import stone flooring from Italy.

Bottom Line: Choose Renovations Wisely

When it comes to your home's resale value and recouping any renovation costs, know that not all projects are created equal. By acquainting yourself with reliable online resources that provide worthwhile insights and primers, as well as making good financial decisions, you can enjoy all the perks of your beautiful, renovated home.


Goodbye, Boring Walls: Easy, Affordable, And Eye-Catching Ways To Create Interest With Simple Molding


Unless you're buying an 18-century French chateau or a meticulously restored craftsman home, your walls may lack a little character. This is especially true if you have new construction, and super especially if your home was on the lower end of the pricing spectrum.

Plain drywall is the hallmark of many a modern-day home. You may have some sort of spray-on texture finish, but, let's be honest - all that really does is create a problem and an unsightly booboo when someone inevitably knocks into it, throws a ball against it, or time and humidity have their way with it. Thankfully, you don't have to move to France, or to California circa 1920, to create a rich, layered look in your home. Moldings can transform your walls in numerous ways, and adding them is an inexpensive and relatively easy DIY project (EDIT: We say "relatively" because there is typically mitering involved, so if calculating angles isn't your thing, you may need handyman help.).

Fit for a King

You can easily create the look of European royalty with a quick trip to Lowe's and some metallic paint. Varying the widths of the panels gives this look even more depth.

Board and batten wainscoting

This is another project you can do yourself with a little skill and some patience. It is also extremely economical, especially when you consider the impact - Hello, luxurious living space! Use MDF to keep the cost as low as possible. You can see a supply list and a complete tutorial here.                                                                                                                                 

Applied box molding

"This is one of the most simple and easiest of the options that we have in this category," said Emily Henderson. "It consists of adding strips of wood to your already existing walls (either with glue or nails) and then painting the entire wall to match. You can customize not only the size of the boxes, to be squares rectangles or a combo of each, but also the thickness of the boards that you add to the wall to achieve just about any look."


Create a grid

You can use molding to create any type of pattern you envision (as long as it has straight lines). If rectangles aren't your thing, maybe this look will do it for you. The advantage to creating a large-scale installation is that, not only does it draw the eye, but it helps cozy up a large space or one with large or tall walls. "By using wood trim to create architectural interest, a tall wall goes from bland and boring to a piece of art itself," said Forbes. "Further adornment isn't necessary when you have gorgeous floor-to-ceiling and three-dimensional texture.

Tip: Design your pattern on paper and tape it out on the wall before putting up wood trim. And always remember to measure, measure, measure!"

                                                                                                                                          Burnham Design

A cozy place to have a seat

A blank wall, an awkward space, or the area on either side of a fireplace or TV niche can become a focal point with wall panels, trim, and a few decorative handles. "A classic window seat provides the perfect opportunity for both comfort and storage," said Better Homes and Gardens. This can also be made with inexpensive, unfinished kitchen cabinets from Home Depot trimmed out to look custom.




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