Top 12 Packing Tips to Get It Done Over the Weekend

These 12 packing tips can make your weekend move quick, organized and doable.

Houzz Contributor, Aly Finkelstein

Packing for a big move does not have to take months. This may come as a shock, but in many homes, it can be done in a weekend or less. I’m speaking from experience on this one. The last time my family of four moved, we did it in a weekend. I’ve also helped many clients tackle the same challenge.

Here are my top 12 tips on how to make the packing process quick and a little less painful.

1. Do not panic! Your nerves can get the best of you if you let them, so take a deep breath and make a list. This list should include what needs to be packed, what supplies should be purchased (such as moving boxes and tape) and in what room order you are going to pack.

This giant list will be your guide as you make quick work of packing the house. Having everything on the list can help you keep your brain focused on the job at hand, and it will feel good to check each task off.

2. Purge your belongings. On your giant to-do list, the first order of business is to purge. Get rid of all the things you can before you begin to pack.

Take a garbage bag and walk through the entire house. It is truly freeing to get rid of things you don’t need. Throw away expired medicine, broken toys, puzzles with missing pieces and other things you’ll never use again. Make sure everything that remains is a full set or in great condition.

5 Areas to Declutter Before You Move

3. Pack kitchen breakables. Your glasses and dishes in the kitchen require some additional attention, so start the packing process with these items. When you are packing away these breakables, save time and money by using soft materials you already own as packing supplies.

Grab your beach towels and large bathroom towels first. Put them at the bottom of your boxes to absorb any shock or shifting that may take place during the move.

Next, grab other towels, linens, dishrags and even T-shirts. You can wrap the fragile items in these pieces, which means packing that section of the house will take less time later.

Tip: Now that you have moving boxes getting full, take a minute to label each box with a number using a permanent marker. Then, start a list of the numbered boxes and their contents. This is essential and will save you precious time later in your new home when you need to quickly find something.

4. Leave dresser drawers full. Save yourself some time and leave your clothes in the drawers. You or your professional haulers can remove the drawers from the dresser and move the drawers with their contents that way. An individual drawer stuffed with clothes stays organized and is easier to move than a filled dresser.

5. Clear out the closet. Clothes from your closet can easily be moved into wardrobe boxes, which come with rods for hanging things up. You just put the clothes in, seal up the box and then unpack and hang the clothes in your new closet after the move.

If you have shelves with sweaters, sweatpants and shoes, pack them into medium-sized boxes. Make sure you label the boxes and add them to your ongoing list.

Tip: Use an extra shoe box or a clear container for the odds and ends — such as buttons, safety pins and old letters — you’ll come across while you pack the closet. You’ll be amazed at what you find.

6. Take care of valuables. Pack jewelry and other valuables carefully. These items are fragile and sentimental. The last thing you want to do is tangle necklaces or lose earrings. I love using pill stackers or snack bags to sort jewelry and keep everything safe.

Tip: Do not put these items in the moving truck. Instead, keep them with you in your vehicle as you go to your new home.

7. Stack the toys. Toys tend to be made from tough materials that don’t break easily. You can pack them into bins or boxes and then stack them into one larger wardrobe box. I’ve found that having the toys packed always brings a huge sense of relief for parents.

This method also will keep all the toys together, and the kids will be happy to pull them all out again in their new home.

Declutter the kids’ stuff in 6 steps

8. Box up bedrooms. Now you can concentrate on accessories and personal items. Similar items should go in the same box: shoes in one box, books in another and so on until everything has a box.

Tip: If any of these items are fragile, grab clothes out of the dresser and use them as packing material.

Shop storage bins and boxes

9. Remove everything from the walls. The best way to pack wall art is with towels and flat pieces of cardboard. Wrap each photograph or piece of art in towels and tape the towel around the piece so that the towel stays in place. Then you can place wrapped items in a box and put a piece of flat cardboard between them for added protection. Cut-up wardrobe boxes are a great source for large, flat pieces of cardboard.

If your large wall art doesn’t fit in a box, you can carefully stack the pieces in the moving truck or your vehicle and use flat pieces of cardboard as dividers.

Tip: Small art and wall decor can be packed similarly to your fragile kitchen items.

10. Keep boxing until you’re done. If you are at this step, you’ve already accomplished a lot. Now you just need to finish. Keep motivated with good music, good food and good friends, if they are willing to help.

The trickier parts of the home have been addressed, so now you just need to keep going into each room and putting the contents in boxes. Keep in mind any previous tricks, such as wrapping breakables in clothing.

11. Do a final check. When you’re done packing, congratulate yourself and call in friends. Order pizza for everyone, and then ask your friends to walk around and see whether you’ve missed anything. Sometimes another set of eyes can be invaluable.

If you find anything, put it in a box. It’s totally OK to have miscellaneous boxes as long as their contents are labeled on your box list. You may find that the items that are last to be packed are the things that didn’t fit into other categories. Ask yourself whether you really want these items before packing them away.

Make sure each box is taped shut, has a number and is listed on your master move list.

If all the loose items are packed and the boxes are closed, you’re officially done.

12. Hire help, if needed. While you can pack in a weekend, it might not work for you every time.

If you are truly in a time pinch and feel that the cost would be worth it, consider hiring the movers to pack you.

5 Simple Home Improvements to Increase the Value of Your Home

It takes less work than you might think to improve your home and increase its value.

No one wants to spend a fortune when it comes to selling a home, but you may want to spruce up a few areas to make your property more appealing to potential buyers. When it comes to upgrades, remember to focus on simple, clean home improvements that will make your home appear more modern and elegant.

  1. Install New Countertops – Buyers may examine a kitchen space more closely than bedrooms and bathrooms because this is usually the area where they will spend the majority of their time. Small changes, such as replacing the countertops with a nicer material may be enough to give the space a new and fresh look. Consider using materials that are common in neighboring homes. A buyer may be less likely to purchase a home with tile countertops when the surrounding homes on the market all have granite or marble.
  2. Replace Hardware and Fixtures – Old, ruddy cabinet handles, kitchen spouts and light fixtures can be a turn off to buyers and make the home seem outdated. Replacing these fixtures with modern hardware is a simple and affordable solution that can be done quickly. Most home improvement stores carry a variety of fixtures and hardware, and you can easily compare costs by doing some research online.
  3. Refinishing Floors Updating the floors of your home is another important upgrade to consider as you prepare to sell. Hardwood floors can be refinished for a reasonable price, and you may want to consider shampooing any stained or worn carpets.
  4. Update the Paint Color – A simple coat of paint can go a long way in livening up a home or a particular room, and the right color can make certain smaller rooms appear more spacious and inviting. Most real estate agents agree that neutral and light or bright colors can make a room stand out, while still giving a clean appearance.
  5.  Install New Doors –  You may overlook the appeal of new front, back and side doors, but these features are some of the first things a buyer sees when they visit a home. You may consider painting your current doors to make them stand out or replacing any doors that are outdated or need repairs.

How to Cut Down on Pool Maintenance Costs This Summer

Enjoy your pool without breaking the bank with these simple cost saving tips from HomeAdvisor.

Guest Post by Andrea Davis

Pool maintenance doesn’t have to be an expensive annual chore. Rather than spending up to $700 on pool maintenance, you can cut costs by doing a lot of the work yourself. You don’t want the pool to fall into such poor shape that you have to spend thousands of dollars on repairs. Here are some steps to keep pool maintenance costs down to nearly nonexistent this summer:

#1 Use your pool cover.

Pool covers significantly reduce energy costs over time because they slow how much water evaporates. With a pool cover, your pool heater doesn’t have to work overtime to keep the water cool. And it prevents debris build-up on windy days too, so you don’t have to clean the pool as often.

#2 Run your filter at night.

Running the pool filter at night helps to cut down on energy costs while still keeping your pool clean. Some people opt to run their pool filter 24 hours a day, but this is a waste of energy and over-cleans the pool, which can cause more problems. See if there’s an optimum time to run the pool filter at night and save on your electricity bill.

#3 Clean the pool filter.

Sweet and simple: cleaning your pool filter keeps your swimming pool clear and prevents you from spending more money on other, more costly pool repairs. So just do it.

#4 Invest in an energy-efficient pool pump.

If you have a normal pool pump, it only pumps at one speed — and it wastes energy on filtration, among other tasks. If you invest in an energy-efficient, variable-speed pump, you could save more than a thousand dollars over the life of the pump. You may also qualify for an energy rebate.

#5 Keep the temperature low.

You pay more money for every degree you raise the temperature in the pool. Consider keeping the water as cool as possible while remaining comfortable. You should also turn the heater off in the off season, when you’re not using the pool.

#6 Maintain the pH balance.

You must pay attention to the chemical balance of the water — not only to keep the water safe, but to keep your costs down as well. If the alkalinity of the water is thrown off for any reason, you’re usually better off getting a swimming pool professional involved. Pool chemicals are expensive — and if you don’t get the measurements right, you’re throwing money away as you pour the chemicals into the water.

#7 Balance stabilizer levels.

While all pool owners are aware of how important it is to maintain chlorine levels, not all may realize how stabilizer (cyanuric acid) plays into the process. Stabilizer aids the chlorine in its effectiveness. Too much or too little stabilizer will result in chlorine losing its effectiveness.  Pool owners need to check their stabilizer levels and decrease or increase the amount of chlorine needed in the water to keep the pool safe.

Do You Know How to Prep Your Home For Summer?

Our friends at HomeAdvisor 5 important steps for prepping your home for summer.

While summertime is perfect for outdoor gatherings with friends and family, it can also be a dangerous, and inefficient, time for your home. That’s why it’s important to have a preparation strategy in place before the hotter months arrive. These quick tips will help you prep your home for summer, and ensure it stays safe and inviting all summer long.

Schedule an Air Conditioning (AC) Inspection

Suffering through the hottest summer months with no AC isn’t fun, especially if you’re playing host to friends or family. Having an AC professional look at your unit before summer officially arrives will address any potential problems before they become major headaches. You can also DIY some preliminary maintenance. Clearing saplings, grass and other underbrush away from your unit will improve airflow and help prevent clogs. Replacing the air filters in your home’s HVAC will also help your AC function at its peak efficiency.

Look for Insulation Leaks and Inefficiencies

Poor insulation will allow cooled air to escape, resulting in a hot home and enormous energy bills. Fortunately, spotting faulty insulation isn’t difficult. Begin by looking for deterioration around your doors and windows. Caulk, door sweeps and weather stripping should address the majority of your door- and window-related leaks. It’s also a good idea to have a professional perform an energy audit. Pros will be able to identify hard-to-spot inefficiencies in other parts of your home and HVAC system.

Prep for Pests

It wouldn’t be summer without pests. And in addition to being an annoyance, some pests can actually damage your home — and even present health problems. Spraying insect barriers around the exterior of your home is a good beginning, but it’s also important to prep the interior of your home. Sealing all food sources and potential entry points like window frames and doors is an important part of finalizing your pest proofing.

P.S. Be sure to read any warnings or instructions that come with pesticides. Improper applications can threaten the safety of your home, especially if you have pets or small children.

Inspect Your Roof

Summer is mostly known for its beautiful weather, but it can also be a time of severe thunderstorms — or worse. This makes having a sturdy roof very important, especially during inclement summertime weather. Begin your inspection by looking for loose shingles, faulty flashing or other clear signs of damage. Your attic can also be home to leaks, rot and other problems not obvious from the outside of your home. Examining your attic insulation, walls and rafters for signs of moisture will help you prevent water damage and structural deterioration. If you notice signs of damage, it’s best to call a pro. Roof repair can be extensive and are rarely DIY-appropriate.

 Reinvigorate Your Outdoor Spaces

Wintertime can take a toll on the appearance of your yard, patio and other outdoor living areas. Removing downed tree limbs, replanting dead flowers and power washing your patio and decking are simple ways to jumpstart your home’s summertime exterior. Your grill can also accumulate gunk during the colder months. Be sure to clean its interior and exterior before your first BBQ. Updating your tired outdoor furniture will also improve the looks and comfort of your entertainment areas. Wrap-around sofas, comfy loveseats and luxurious hammocks are ideal additions to any outdoor space. You can perfect your entertainment areas with colorful throw pillows, planters, hanging candles and outdoor lighting.

Chelsea McGrath is an Editor at HomeAdvisor with a love for all things home, health, sports and nature.

12 Trending Designs to Bring Into Your Home Today

Houzz looks back at their latest stories to help you look ahead to your next design project.

Houzz Contributor, Mitchell Parker

Good design is all about the little things. A seemingly small decision or maneuver can pay off to create something big and captivating. Looking back on our articles for this week, we noticed design moves so clever that they make the entire room stand out. Consider including one of these ideas in your next project. And if something here grabs you, be sure to click the link to dive deeper into the story it came from.

1. Bold countertop and backsplash color. If you get inspired by colorful spaces, let this Australian home be your muse. You may not think that a vibrant green countertop would work, but one look at its combination with an equally vivid green backsplash and light wood cabinets, and you could become a convert.

Laminate countertops are making a comeback, and they’re an affordable option that you can customize in any color you want.

Read more about this colorful home

2. Disappearing dining table. Dining space can be hard to come by in some homes. In this 835-square-foot condo, a suspended and recessed compartment beneath the TV opens to reveal a slide-out shelf that extends to create a desk or table surface.

Read more about this hideaway table

3. Accent wall to hide the TV. Despite some reports that feature walls are fading, interior designer, color specialist and Houzz writer Jennifer Ott argues that’s just not the case. “I continue to evangelize for accent walls because they are one of the quickest and easiest ways to inject your own personality into a space,” she writes.

A black- or dark-painted feature wall can make unwanted elements disappear, as is the case in this living room, where the black screen of the TV is virtually nonexistent.

Discover more reasons to embrace accent walls

4. Window wrapped in tile. Graphic tile is a great way to bring pattern and movement to an otherwise white kitchen. But another terrific tip is to wrap that tile all the way around a window on the backsplash wall to give the appearance of a wallpaper effect.

See more backsplashes with graphic tile

5. Black marble countertops. Interior designer and Houzz writer Yanic Simard showed us the versatile beauty of black marble with all the ways it can be used to bring drama and elegance throughout a home. One highlight: countertops. “A dark stone counter makes an excellent pairing with a deep cabinet color,” he writes. “You can break up the darkness with a light backsplash and some shimmering metallic accents. Nobody will want to eat in the dining room again.”

See more reasons to love black marble

6. Field tile feature wall in the shower. Using encaustic tile to cover an entire bathroom could get costly. A more affordable option is to create a smaller feature section in your shower with a solid-color border. Keep the rest of the tile simple, such as white subway, and you’ve got a stunning, affordable design feature.

Read more about this inspiring bathroom

7. Decorative shower drain. In the same shower as the previous photo, move your eyes down from the graphic feature wall and you’ll find this decorative shower drain. It goes to show that no matter how insignificant an element is in your space, there’s always room to have a little fun with design.

See the rest of this bathroom

8. Ceiling treatment. Just as looking down at the shower drain can spark a little creativity, so too can looking up to the ceiling. The homeowners of this Florida home hired a custom artist to paint a scene depicting the night sky.

Read more about this fun children’s bathroom

9. Outdoor furniture indoors. This little design trick is worth repeating time and again. If you live by the water, have kids or pets, or are involved in any activity that may cause abnormal wear and tear on your furniture, consider upholstering your pieces in outdoor fabric. It’s easier to clean and holds up better to active use.

Read more about this modern lake house

10. Old shutter as a display board. If you have a home office, chances are you have some sort of display board for mementos, notes and reminders. If you prefer not to drill, hammer or pin anything into your walls (hello, renters), consider leaning an old shutter against the wall behind your desk, and use clips to secure things.

Get more ideas for inspirational pinboards

11. Wall-hung storage system. Sometimes a bulky storage case or bookshelf can take up a lot of visual and physical space. To keep the floor area free and clear, try a customizable wall-mounted shelf system like the one shown here. You can get creative with the size and location of each shelf to create a functional configuration that can work around almost any fixed element.

Read more about this live-work home

12. Mirrors behind shelves. Every designer has a bag of tricks to bring life and style to a room. Here, a designer used antique mirror to add a reflective element to a richly hued living room in London.

8 Ways to Create a Warm and Welcoming White Kitchen

You can have your white kitchen and visual interest too. Use these ideas to make your cooking space stand out.

Houzz Contributor, Veronica Solomon

An all-white room isn’t as simple as it may seem. If not done properly, the room can feel stark or boring. This is especially true when it comes to kitchens. There are so many hard surfaces in this space — countertops, flooring, appliances, cabinetry — that a white kitchen can end up feeling sterile.

But there are plenty of ways to use materials, light and texture to make the kitchen feel warm and inviting. Here are eight tips to help you plan the white kitchen of your dreams.

1. Layer Shades of White

Avoid a sterile look by mixing whites. If you use just one shade, the room can end up looking flat. Instead, choose three or four shades of white and place them on different materials around the kitchen. This will add dimension and interest throughout the space.

While you are bringing in different shades of white, avoid mixing warm whites with cool whites. Warm tones look more yellow, and cool tones look more blue. Most paint retailers will present their warm whites and cool whites separately, which will help you find whites in the same group.

My go-to warm whites are White Flour by Sherwin-Williams, White Dove by Benjamin Moore and Nude by Behr. For cool whites, I recommend White Diamond by Benjamin Moore, Designer White by Pratt & Lambert and Delicate White by PPG Pittsburgh Paints.

Why this white kitchen works:
Three Benjamin Moore whites come together in this Texas kitchen. It has Titanium on the walls, Chantilly Lace on the ceiling, and Simply White on the trim and cabinets. The slightly different shades on each surface give the room dimension and add visual interest where the trio of paints meet, such as above the sink and doorways.

2. Use a Statement-Making Material

A well-designed white kitchen will depend on the finish materials used in the space. Materials like Carrara marble have strong visual appeal and instantly make a statement, even in a white-on-white environment.

As a general rule, limit materials with a lot of movement (such as the flowing patterns in marble) to just one element, usually the backsplash or countertop. Choosing subtler materials for other surfaces allows the statement-maker to shine.

Why this white kitchen works: The natural marble slab instantly draws your attention in this kitchen because the other materials and fixtures are more subdued. This lets the island, and its marble veins, be the star.

3. Bring On Texture

Bringing in materials with various textures — both tactile and visual— adds depth to a predominantly white kitchen. This can be done by mixing shiny with matte and rough with smooth for a dynamic look.

Why this white kitchen works: These textured pendant lights make a strong visual statement against the white cabinets while balancing the wood flooring. A kitchen that could have otherwise looked stark now feels warm and welcoming.

4. Add Accent Colors

Splashes of color in a white kitchen help play up the cabinetry. Choose a small number of contrasting colors — one, two or maybe three. Then repeat them in accessories to pull the theme together. Places to try adding a bit of color include seating, lighting, countertop canisters, rugs, backsplashes and hardware.

Why this white kitchen works: This kitchen injects bright colors into the seating, lighting and a memo board on the wall. Together, these colors give the room a friendly vibe while keeping the kitchen feeling white and bright. And they draw the eye from one part of the room to another, so you can enjoy every corner.

5. Take Advantage of Natural Light

Natural light from a window or skylight is a great benefit for any kitchen, but especially for a white kitchen because it bolsters the bright and airy feel you were going for in the first place.

Why this white kitchen works: The large set of windows above the sink lets ample light filter in throughout the day. The light is amplified by glass fronts on the upper cabinets. This feature takes advantage of all that light, reflecting it around the space and into adjacent rooms.

Tip: Window treatments in adjoining rooms can make a difference too. Consider using shades that can be pulled up completely in the daytime. This will allow even more natural light to filter into your kitchen.

6. Provide Softness

Fabrics bring pattern and softness into a white kitchen. Window treatments are an easy way to do this. You can also bring in fabrics through floor runners or other smaller rugs, or choose bar stools covered in fabric or leather instead of wood.

Why this white kitchen works: Roman shades with a subtle geometric pattern definitely help soften this kitchen. They are tailored and clean, and can be pulled up to maximize natural light entering the kitchen.

7. Top the Island

Let the kitchen island stand apart from the rest of your work surfaces by topping it with a different color or material. This bit of contrast also breaks up the room and provides your eyes with a nice resting place.

Why this white kitchen works: The wooden countertop on the island creates a center point in the room that feels as if it belongs because it echoes the floor material with its top and the cabinetry color with its base.

8. Bring Texture to the Backsplash

A white backsplash can be a great focal point, even if it’s all white. You can create this interest by using a pattern or textured material, such as mosaic stone, a three-dimensional tile, painted brick or a herringbone pattern.

Because the backsplash is one of the first things you see as you walk into a kitchen, and because it is such a small area, don’t be afraid to go bold with your pattern or textured pick.

Why this white kitchen works: Marble tiles in a herringbone pattern give life to the backsplash, which stretches from one wall all the way to the kitchen’s peninsula. These tiles, with their hints of gray and off-white, bring out the pattern without overwhelming.

How To Open Your Pool

The sun is shining and the swimming pool season is about to kick off. Here is a guide to help you open your pool for the season.

Spring is in full bloom and this can mean a lot of things for many different people. For example, if you own a pool you’re surely thinking (probably dreading) about opening it for the season. There is nothing like watching all your loved ones enjoying its crisp coolness but they don’t know how much work goes into getting it ready. I am here to bring optimism to the equation and tell you that opening your pool doesn’t have to be as horrible as you anticipate. I came across this great article from Popular Mechanics that will definitely help guide you in your efforts. I’ve highlighted a couple of steps below.

1) Don’t Empty Your Pool 

According to the article, you should never have to completely empty your pool of the water that had been sitting from the past season. Exceptions to this include if you neglected to cover it or if you need to do any actual construction work to it. Why you ask? Apparently, if you remove all of the water you could run the risk of your pool lifting since it doesn’t have the weight of the water to hold it down. What that ultimately might result in is you needed to replace the whole thing.

2) Cleaning Your Pool and Water

The most basic way to start cleaning your pool and its water is by buying a chemical opening kit, or by shocking it. Then, change all the filtration systems and clear all of the baskets. You should also take this time to remove any plugs you may have put in place last year. During this step you should still have your pool cover on.

3) Refilling Your Pool 

If your pool is running low on water, feel free to top it off at this time. However, this should only be done after you have replaced your filters. Once your pool is filled to the desired amount, you can take a sample to your local pool store where they will test it for you. Some places do it for free, but if not, don’t skip this step because it is super important to make sure your water is swim ready otherwise it could be dangerous.

4) Get Ready for Fun in the Sun 

Your pool’s filter should be cleaned daily until the water appears clear. A ready pool means that you can see the bottom without any issues. You may need to continuously add chlorine to help you reach the perfect balance.

5) Dive In

Once the water is completely clear and all of the water levels are good you can take off the cover. Taking it off any sooner may prove counterproductive as debris may disrupt your process. Once you’ve gotten to this point, invite the neighborhood (well maybe not the whole neighborhood) and enjoy your summer!

 

9 Questions To Ask When Searching For A Family Home

Here’s how to find a house your growing family will love for years to come.

 

Unless you’re planning on doing your own version of Fixer Upper, the general home-buying rule of thumb is to look for a place you’ll be able to live in for five years or more. So if you have kids (or are about to), you’ll need to look not just at the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, but also consider how a house will work for a crawling baby, curious toddler, rambunctious preschooler and beyond—not to mention multiple children, if that’s your plan. Talk to your Coldwell Banker Slegg Realty Real Estate professional about your needs and ask these nine questions to help you narrow in on the perfect home for your growing family.

1. Are the neighbors close in age? One of the greatest benefits of buying a home is getting to know your neighbors and having a true sense of community. But while neighbors of any age may be lovely people, having other young families on the block will go a long way toward creating a kid-friendly environment. (Think: company at the future bus stop, community activities like organized trick-or-treating and safety features like a slower speed limit.)

2. Is there ample outdoor space? It’s easy to overlook the yard if you’re childless or baby is still in diapers, but having an outdoor area that’s safe for supervised play is a major win. It’s important to consider the flip side, though—the time and cost of maintaining it—and make sure you’re up for the task. If not, look for a home with less outdoor space, like a condominium or townhouse, that’s within walking distance of a playground or park. (Not sure what the difference is between a condo and townhouse? Coldwell Banker Real Estate explains that here.) A house with a smaller yard on a quiet street or cul-de-sac could also be a good choice, since you might be able to use the street as an extension of your front yard.

3. How are the schools? Your first instinct may be to look into the quality of the public school district—and you definitely should!—but if your kids are preschool age or younger, don’t forget to research nanny and day care options in the area. Once you’ve checked those boxes, find out about school transportation (not all homes qualify for bus service), including where the bus stop is, or what the walking path and/or driving route will be.

4. Is it equipped with “Smart Home” technology? It wasn’t long ago that having network-connected products to control entertainment, security, temperature, lighting and safety seemed out of reach, except for in the most high-end houses. But these “ smart home” features have quickly gone mainstream as they’ve become more affordable and easy to set up in existing houses. They’re particularly great for families with young children—having the ability to control night-lights, lighting and window treatments from your phone can help make naptime easier, for example. Consider which features are most important to you, and search for Coldwell Banker Real Estate listings that are classified as “smart homes.”

5. Is the kitchen large enough to accommodate the entire family? It’s often said the kitchen is the heart of the home, and for good reason. After all, you’ll be spending countless hours there over the years, whether you’re cooking and baking together, grabbing quick bowls of cereal in the morning, or working on school projects. A kitchen with an eat-in dining area, an island/peninsula for bar stools, or even a desk area for homework time will give you plenty of room to do all of the above (sometimes simultaneously).

6. Is there a separate room for playtime? Yes, an open floor plan makes it easier to keep an eye on kids while you’re in the kitchen, but a designated playroom off the living room or a finished basement can be a sanity-saver. You’ll still probably end up stepping on Legos, but having a dedicated room to store all those toys can help you keep the mess under control (or at least hide it).

7. Is there a convenient entrance with storage? Kids of every age come with a whole lot of gear—from strollers and diaper bags during the baby stage to sports equipment when they get a little older. That’s why a mudroom or a large laundry room is ideal—bonus points if it has its own outside entrance so older kids can drop off their stuff on the way in. If not, a foyer with storage space is a good alternative.

8. How’s the commute to work? Even the most perfect house isn’t perfect if you spend so much time getting to and from work you can’t help your kids get ready for school or see them before bedtime. Do a test run from any potential house to your workplace during rush hour, whether you plan to drive, bike, or take public transportation.

9. Are there shops nearby? No matter how good you are at stocking your pantry and medicine cabinet, it’s inevitable that at some point, you’ll run out of diapers at the worst possible time or need to pick up medicine if baby spikes a fever. Having a grocery store or pharmacy a short drive or walk away will save you time and stress—especially if it’s open late.

 

The Bump and Coldwell Banker Real Estate present Find Your Happy Place, a sponsored series featuring tips and advice to help you find a neighborhood (and home!) that’ll make your family happy for years to come. Visit www.SleggRealty.com  to start your home-buying journey.

Selling? Low-Cost Home Improvement Fixes that Make Your Home Shine

When selling a home, even tiny fixes can have a big impact. Fortunately many fixes can be done quickly and with a small budget. Here are 10 of the best low- (or no-) cost home improvement fixes to make your house stand above the competition.

When selling a home, even tiny fixes can have a big impact. Here are 10 of the best low- (or no-) cost home improvement fixes to make your house stand above the competition:

1. Address the Heart of the Home

In real estate, the kitchen is a main selling feature and can be a make or break deal for potential home buyers. If a new kitchen just isn’t in the cards, consider replacing smaller ticket items and de-cluttering. Low- and no-cost fixes for the kitchen include:

  • New cabinet hardware
  • New faucets
  • Installing a new backsplash
  • Storing countertop appliances to create more work space
  • Replacing dark valances with lighter fabric or removing them altogether

2. Update Switch Plate Covers

Switch plate and outlet covers are brittle, and can crack and yellow over time, resulting in a home that, no matter how well updated, still looks dated. New outlets and covers can be replaced in a snap for generally under five dollars, making it one of the lowest cost updates available. Consider flat switches that create a modern, streamlined silhouette and stick to white for a timeless look.

3. Beautify the Bathroom

An updated bathroom comes only second to kitchens in a buyer’s list of must-haves, so showing them a clean and uncluttered bathroom will score points with any potential buyer.

New flooring can give an otherwise tired bathroom a much needed facelift and create a newer looking bathroom overall. Coordinating linens, a new shower curtain, and thoroughly cleaned grout can top off this easy home improvement investment.

4. Address Storage

Storage is always a concern for buyers. Installing low-cost closet organizers to your existing space will increase storage and organization in your home. Add storage baskets to hide clutter and you will have beautiful storage spaces that will make any buyer envious.

5. Deep Clean for a Good Return

If your home contains wall to wall carpeting, clean carpets can make a world of difference to a buyer. Cleaning carpets can easily be completed in a weekend with a rental cleaning machine, and it creates a noticeably clean, odor free environment for buyers to tour.

6. Boost Curb Appeal

Nothing boosts curb appeal like a tidy yard. Trim and edge walkways, weed gardens, and trim shrubs for maximum impact. If you have a porch, consider potted, seasonal plants to bring the look together.

7. Improve the First Impression

As buyers approach your home, first impressions matter. Ensuring your entryway is clean and inviting with something as simple as a new mailbox or updated house numbers will make buyers feel welcome. Clean windows and doors for extra impact.

8. Add a Coat of Paint

Freshening up your living space with neutral colors will invite buyers to imagine their belongings in your home and will cover up any nicks, scratches, or dents your wall incurred over years of daily living.

9. Update Lighting

While not the lowest cost solution on our list, you will find that a new light fixture or two really breathes new life into key living spaces. If your budget is tight, look to kitchen, dining, and living rooms for the most bang for your buck.

10. Add Some Decor Pizzazz

Finally, a fresh look can be completed with nothing more than some colorful fabric. Inexpensive pillows and throws in a coordinating palette through your home will create a unified look that will have buyers hooked.

 

12 Unique Antique Store Finds and What to Do With Them

See the accessories one decorator always buys when she spots them — as long as she gets there first.

Houzz Contributor, Charmean Neithart

I get asked fairly often where I find the accessories in my projects. More often than not my answer is antique stores. “Antiquing” is my favorite type of hunting — and sometimes my favorite contact sport, as well.

Antique stores offer one-of-a-kind objects, reasonable pricing and instant gratification. Beware, though, of competitive shoppers eyeing the object you just inquired about. It’s best to wear flats for your next stop at an antique store; you might have to do some fancy footwork.

It’s helpful to know what you are looking at as you wander through, specifically, whether a piece is truly vintage or contemporary. And there are a handful of objects that I always buy if I find them. These objects are on the “buy now, ask later” list: If I see one of these objects I just buy it and then figure out where it will go later.

For some people, this may go against sensible purchasing behavior. However, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve passed up something interesting only to find it gone 10 minutes later. Oh, if I only had a nickel for every time that happened. So here is my “buy it now” list for those of you who like to antique.

Suzanis. A Suzani is a type of textile, usually from Uzbekistan or other Central Asian countries. I prefer the vintage Suzanis and use them in many applications, such as this beautiful piece that has been mounted behind a bed. They can also be draped over sofas, used for upholstery, and made into pillows.

The circular designs are embroidered and display bright colors. The circular shapes symbolize the sun and moon and also you will typically see flowers, vines and sometimes animals in the designs. They often were used as wedding gifts as part of a dowry.

Foo dogs. If I come across a great pair of foo dogs I always leash those puppies up and bring them home. Usually bright colors, sometimes old and sometimes new, foo dogs are eye-catching accessories for many styles of room.

Headless sculptures. This is just my quirkiness coming through, but I really like a headless sculpture. Authentic and classic, this type of sculpture adds a layer of culture and sophistication to a room.

The age of a piece will be reflected in price. Typically, the older a piece the more expensive it is. Also look for sculpture that has been artistically mounted. A tabletop size piece should cost anywhere from $100 to $300; very old pieces can be quite a bit more.

Elephants. I met a beautiful, majestic elephant in Thailand many years ago. I was able to feed him and take beautiful pictures that I cherish. I’m always reminded of these animals’ peaceful, protective mannerisms when I see replicas in antique stores. I was told that, traditionally, finding an elephant with its trunk up is good luck. OK — I can use some of that.

Blanc de Chine. You can find both old and contemporary versions of these white porcelain pieces originating from Dehua, China. Old versions can date back to the 1600s; these are very expensive. Typically I come across tabletop-sized statues that depict Chinese characters and animals. The size shown here usually costs around $400.

Porcupine quill accessories. Quill accessories can be vintage or reproductions. Old pieces such as small boxes and frames will be very expensive. The vintage pieces were typically made by Native Americans who collected the porcupine needles that were shed naturally by the animals. They developed intricate styles of weaving using these needles. Modern reproductions, such as this mirror, are striking with their black and cream palette.

African stools. I often come across these stools, sometimes called King’s stools or Ashanti stools.Their organic shapes and carving details look great next to sofas and chairs in modern and traditional spaces. They can cost anywhere from $200 to $500.

Midcentury pottery. I always snatch up groupings of multicolored pottery pieces when I find good ones. I prefer ’50s and ’60s era pieces, which come in a variety of sizes. Singles can be used as vases or sculpture, and groupings are great on sideboards and mantels.

Vintage commercial signs. Vintage signs large and small can be placed in rooms for an eclectic touch that adds whimsy and nostalgia to a space. Large ones can can be propped up in a corner, and smaller ones can be mounted just about anywhere. Try mixing in smaller signs with a photo collage on a wall or over a bed.

Vintage radios. Vintage radios are easy to find and I always enjoy inspecting their knobs and dials. I look for ’50s-era radios and interesting colors and add them to sideboards, mantels and coffee tables. If they work, that’s a bonus.

Vintage suitcases. Old suitcases are best when used in groupings, but just as fun in singles. I use them as end tables, coffee tables or just as sculpture. I always open these up and check their condition, but signs of wear are good — it adds patina to a room.

Vintage globes. Another easy find in antique stores, vintage globes are great as standalone pieces or tabletop accessories. I love the very old ones that have neutral colors, but the multicolored school style is fun too, especially in homes with children learning about history and geography.