Installing a Pool? The Ultimate Homeowner’s Checklist

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The decision to install an in-ground pool should never be taken lightly. Take the time to review this checklist before calling up the nearest pool installer.

The decision to install an in-ground pool should never be taken lightly. While this iconic amenity adds a level of beauty and recreation to the property, it also imparts significant real estate considerations. Without careful forethought and planning, unexpected roadblocks may put the pool to a grinding halt. Take the time to review this checklist before calling up the nearest pool installer.

 

Local Laws, Permits, and Municipal Codes

Check with the local jurisdiction to find out what is required. The pool contractor should be well-versed in the codes, permits, and fees necessary to begin. However, the responsibility lies with the homeowner. Some areas have restrictions on size and type of pool, setback, and safety features.

 

Strata/Homeowner’s Association Restrictions

Some homeowner’s associations may forbid the installation of pools altogether, while others have specific restrictions. They may prohibit excessively large pools or require additional safety measures not required by the city. Consult with them prior to investing in a pool or they may put a stop to it.

 

Utility Easements

Known easement issues should be dealt with prior to installing a pool. Utility service easements and other access issues can make the prime location of the pool far less inviting. Natural obstructions such as sinkholes, rocky terrain, and trees can increase the difficulty further.

 

Space Requirements

A pool will also take up more area than most people are expecting. Account for plenty of excess space for ease of movement, garden area, and play areas for children. Have a contractor assist in plotting out the available space, and making note of any questionable areas.

 

Property Taxes Versus Property Value

Typically, expect a new pool installation to qualify as new construction on the property. This will subject it to higher property taxes, which will vary based on locale. However, the amount of the investment is not often reflected by an equivalent increase in property values. Consider a new pool an indulgence rather than an investment.

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Climate and Neighborhood

Warmer climates are perfect locations for pools; so much so that they are essential property features, not luxuries. Even homes close to coastal regions still require pools, to maintain the health of the real estate market and to sell quickly. Homes in colder climates are more likely to add a pool as a novelty, only available for use in the warmer spring and summer months. Likewise, take a look at the other homes in the neighborhood, for indications on how desirable a pool is, and what styles are preferred in this market.

 

Patio, Landscaping, and Amenities

Consider how the in-ground pool fits in with current and future outdoor amenities. A patio is a natural pairing, but proper landscaping will prevent the pool from looking staggeringly out of place. Lighting, fire pits, and cooking areas can all be incorporated into a comprehensive outdoor entertainment area, increasing property values and market desirability.

 

Financing with Home Equity, Second Mortgage, or Unsecured Loan

Choosing the right financing should be done prior to putting a deposit down with a pool contractor. A qualified lender can explain the available options and assist in deciding what is best at the time. Many people turn to home equity loans immediately, but they are not always available on a newer home purchase or during a slow market. A second mortgage is another popular choice, but may not be a sound investment if a quick sale is expected. Unsecured loans are less popular, but are good when a large deposit is already available.

 

Resale Value and Attractiveness to the Market

A new pool is no guarantee of increased property values. In unfavorable markets, some buyers may not desire an in-ground pool at all, and it may end up buried in the future. Proper research will indicate what kind of market the property is located in. Often, a pool remains a luxury investment that is not easily recouped in the future.

 

The decision to install a pool is complex, but need not be overwhelming. By covering these areas prior to beginning, it will be easy to determine if a pool will be a reality or a pipe dream.

Swing into Spring

Create the Perfect Backyard Party Pad for your Celebrations

Guest Post by Home Depot

Warm weather is upon us, and it’s time to take the party outside. From Cinco de Mayo to Mother’s Day to Memorial Day, spring’s signature celebrations deserve a festive and welcoming outdoor space. But what if your patio feels a little plain, a little bare, or a little less-than-inspiring for the party of your dreams?

Dreams can become reality if you have the right plan. And we can prove it. We will show you how to take a winter-worn patio and make it bloom into a versatile foundation for hosting three spring parties, from setting up the perfect base space to perfecting every minor detail, down to the apps and napkins.

With the advice from our design and party experts, and the dramatic before and after photos of our patio designs, you are sure to find the inspiration to transform your patio into a party destination all season long.

Build a Beautiful Base

Before running off to purchase celebration decorations, take the time to build a versatile, functional outdoor living base for your family, whether you are entertaining or not. Most patios need the following basic elements:

  • A table and set of chairs
  • Planters and greenery
  • A source of shade

Of course, don’t forget the grill—the official cooking tool of spring and summer.

Click on the arrows to see the patio transformation:


Spruce up the area

After the dreary winter months, your backyard oasis might look a little rough around the edges. Shrubbery can have dead or uneven growth, and leaves and branches litter the ground. In general, your greenery may need a little TLC. Pay attention to the plants and lawn around your patio by trimming, checking for disease or damage, and fertilizing all greenery. Setting up your lawn and garden for success means that they’ll reward you with beauty all season long.

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Don’t forget the patio itself. Concrete is the most common patio surface, and since it is semi-porous, it can hold general grime as well as stains from plant matter. Use a pressure washer to bring back its sparkle (while you’re at it, extend the cleaning to the exterior of the house as well). Pressure-washing can prolong the life of your surfaces (mold and mildew naturally cause decay), and the results are immediate!

Once the surface is clean, add potted planters filled with seasonal, colorful flowers to help blend the patio with its surrounding environment.

Choose your investment pieces

Plastic Adirondack chairs are great for a casual get together. But when you’re ready to transform your outdoor space into an entertaining area suitable for the whole family, you’ll need comfortable, attractive seating, some shade and a table fit for all the great food coming off the grill.

“The elements are going to take their toll, so it’s important to invest in quality,” says KariAnne Wood, a blogger, lifestyle expert and creator of Thistlewood Farms in Paducah, Kentucky. “Look for pieces that are a good scale for your size patio, and when you invest in furniture, make sure that you get furniture protectors so you can protect it from the elements in the off season.”

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A neutral table and chair set is a great base (especially if you add a little texture with a rug below it). From there, says Wood, it’s time to add some shade. Consider an umbrella or pergola: “It extends the life of the patio, and helps define and add purpose to the space.”

Umbrellas come in a huge range of styles, from traditional table-anchored options to bigger, more modern cantilever styles.

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Finally, the easiest way to “fire up” a party is to add a grill to your outdoor setting. By taking the cooking outside, you’ll get to spend time with your guests, keep the house cool in the heat of summer and show off your cooking chops to the neighborhood. Gas and charcoal are both excellent choices, and some grills include both, so you can leave your options open.

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Your base patio is set! Now, building a specific party setting is a snap, which Jacqueline Lawrence of inventivENVIRONMENTS in Charleston, South Carolina, illustrates with the following seasonal soirees.

“I love a challenge like this!” says Lawrence. “It’s really all about creating a plan and then layering the look with texture, color and fabric.”

Party One: Cinco de Mayo

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Cinco de Mayo is rising in popularity as a celebration in the US, but don’t fear that you’re stuck with plastic margarita glasses, a piñata and sombreros. Go beyond cliché to celebrate the vibrancy of Mexico and its rich heritage.

Lawrence explains her elegant approach: “We want something cool and inviting for Cinco de Mayo, so we evoke the colors and textures of the high Mexico desert. Cool sage greens, a woven runner, citrus and succulents provide inspiration, and the last two do double duty on the table-scape: The citrus can be a great beverage garnish, and the potted succulents a thoughtful takeaway gift for the evening’s guests.”

Click on the arrows to see the Cinco de Mayo patio transformation:


Additionally, since Cinco de Mayo is often more of an evening affair, Lawrence also includes a glint of copper to catch the setting rays of the sun, and uses the space under the umbrella as a party “ceiling” from which to hang decorative elements. In this case, copper lanterns accented by a fresh flower garland woven throughout look even better when there’s a soft glow from the lanterns’ candles.

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Our menu highlights the culture of Mexico:

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Party Two: Mother’s Day

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Small details, pale petals, tinkling glass and delicate treats—Mother’s Day is all about making the women in your life feel special, so it makes sense that traditional feminine details lead the way in this design. Seersucker fabric is fresh and full of spring promise, beautiful glassware makes the day sparkle and you can never have enough flowers for Mom.

“The amount of flowers for this scene might feel over the top, but really, it’s very doable!” says Lawrence. “Purchase some potted plants in bloom for the planters, and then layer flowers for the table. Buy simple cut flowers to arrange for a centerpiece, and then add flower heads to each place setting—and even the ice cubes! Different varieties, colors and sizes really provide the illusion of an abundance of petals.”

Click on the arrows to see the Mother’s Day patio transformation:


Below the petal explosion are the fresh stripes of seersucker—Lawrence used the iconic breathable fabric as a runner, complemented by delicate napkins and even more floral motifs on fabric pillows, which creates a luxurious feel and makes the scene one-of-a-kind. Maybe mom always told you to “dot your i’s and cross your t’s”—this design does all that in the details.

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Our garden-inspired Mother’s Day menu features fresh and light fare:

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Meet our experts:

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KariAnne Wood writes the award-winning decorating and lifestyle blog, Thistlewood Farms. Her home decor blog was awarded Country Living Decorating Blog of the Year and was named one of the Top 10 Decorating Blogs by Better Homes and Gardens.

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Jacqueline Lawrence finds inspiration everywhere. She grew up in a flower shop, then worked for some of the top designers in fashion, including Calvin Klein and Nicole Miller, before becoming a visual director at Nordstrom. Now she owns @inventivEVENTS in Charleston, South Carolina.

 

 

10 Things to Look for in a House if You Have Children

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Your life at home with children will be easier if your house has some version of these features.

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Houzz Contributor, Laura Gaskill

If you have kids (or are planning to) and you’re shopping for a house, your what-to-look-for checklist is probably already a mile long. To avoid getting swamped by the home buying process, focus on what you really want from your home. Beyond the basics of location, price, condition and school district, what would really make a home a great fit for your family? Consider adding these 10 items to your home buying wish list — and then share your own ideas in the Comments.

1. Entry storage. From the strollers and car seats of the baby stage to the sports gear and backpacks of the older years, a never-ending parade of stuff comes with having children in the house — and the more places you have to put this stuff when you walk in the door, the better! Look for a house with built-in entry storage, from closets and cabinets to cubbies and shelves. Having an entry out of view of the rest of the house is ideal, so you can enjoy your home without staring at the gear in the entryway all the time.

2. Convenient laundry. A laundry in the basement may not be the first thing you notice at an open house, but if you have young children, you might want to give the laundry zone a little more thought. Having the washer and dryer on the main level — in a mudroom or off the kitchen, for instance — comes in incredibly handy when you’re wrangling small children who go through more wardrobe changes in one day than Lady Gaga. A laundry near upstairs bedrooms is another good option, since this will likely mean a lot less schlepping of heavy baskets up and down the stairs.

3. Stairs that can be safely gated. Speaking of stairs, if you are looking at homes with more than one level, pay attention to the stairs and railings. Look for stairs that can be gated easily at the top and bottom, and sturdy railings without any wide gaps. Airy, open staircases may look beautiful, but if you can’t easily block them, life with a little one will be very stressful.

4. Ditto for the kitchen. While being able to see what’s going on in the living room while you chop veggies for dinner is a definite plus, it still pays to consider how you can gate off the cooking area to keep curious little hands out. Door openings that are larger than standard size may require custom (read: costlier) solutions. Of course, you may decide you don’t need to separate this area … but it never hurts to think about it before you buy.

5. Built-in storage. Built-in storage means more places to neatly stash your family’s stuff, without worrying about anchoring tall, topple-prone pieces of furniture to the wall. Ideally, look for built-in shelving in the living room or family room with open shelves above and closed cabinets below.

6. Kid-friendly bathroom. We’re not talking about a themed bathroom here, but a functional space that will work well for your family. Look for a bathroom with a tub and plenty of room to maneuver — you may be spending a remarkable number of hours perched on a stool beside that tub, so comfort and spaciousness count! Other details to look for include a bathroom mirror that comes down close to the sink (so little ones can actually see themselves), and storage space for bath toys and extra towels, and if you have a large family, multiple faucets are a big plus.

7. Bonus space. When you have kids, extra space is always a good thing. Look for an area of the home that has the potential to be used in a number of different ways, from playroom to home office to nursery for a future sibling. If the space (attic, basement) is not finished, find out what it would take to make this area usable in the future.

8. Fenced yard. Even a small yard can offer big possibilities to a child, from building play forts to digging in the dirt. For your own peace of mind, look for a backyard that is fully, securely fenced, so you can let creative play happen without worrying your little explorer will go toddling off toward the street.

9. A view of the outdoors. Being able to take care of a little chore inside and still have a view of your child playing can be a huge help. A bonus benefit of having a good view of your outdoor space — whether through generous windows, sliding glass doors or French doors — is that it will encourage you and your family to actually use it!

10. Master suite. As a parent, having a space to call your own is so important. Sure, you may end up sharing the space with a toddler who had bad dreams or a random pile of Lego bricks more often than you would like, but knowing that this space is officially yours is worth it. Look for a master bedroom with its own private bathroom and a spacious closet. French doors leading to your own private balcony or patio? Major bonus.

Your Home’s Honey Do List for May

Before you fire up that grill, here is your home’s honey do list for May which will make summer even more enjoyable.

The tulips are blooming and the yard work is piling up, but all you can dream about is summer barbecues. Before you fire up that grill, here is your home’s honey do list for May which will make summer even more enjoyable.

1. Curb Appeal – Because April showers bring May flowers, it’s time to think about your home’s curb appeal. Does your front door need a refresh? Could your outdoor lighting use an update? Does your mailbox need a makeover? Check out these 7 Major League Upgrades to Increase Your Home’s Curb Appeal.

2. Give Mom some Love – Because Home is Where Mom is, consider showing Mom your appreciation this Mother’s Day (May 14th) by giving her one of these unique homemade Mother’s Day gifts. Another welcome gift for every Mom is a helping hand around the house (see #5 on this list)!

3. May is for Mold? – Did those April showers cause water problems in your home? Use this brief guide to mold and moisture to clean up and prevent mold growth in your home.

4. Spring Into Action – Take advantage of the spring weather and get out of the house! See how many items on this list of Free Things to Do Outside the House you can tackle before June.

5. Glass Houses – People who live in glass houses…have a lot of windows to clean! Tackle outdoor windows and doors with a glass cleaner to let plenty of that spring sunlight inside.

6. Inspect for Termites – Termites are more active in the spring and summer months when the air is warm and moist. Check your home for termite damage, paying special attention to anywhere wood meets the ground. Watch this video to learn how you can inspect your home this May.

7. Prep Your Home for Sale – If you’re getting your home ready for sale this spring, there are several items that many home sellers overlook. Do you have a copy of your survey on hand, or have you compiled a list of service providers for a buyer? These 9 often overlooked items when prepping your home for sale can help seal the deal with today’s savvy buyers.

8. Grilling Time – Now you’re ready for that Memorial Day backyard bash. To make sure you never unexpectedly run out of gas in your grill, consider checking out this handy product.

5 Tips for Increasing the Curb Appeal & Value of Your Home

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Homes with strong curb appeal can fetch higher prices. Learn simple improvements you can make to increase the sale price of your home.

No matter how low mortgage rates fall or how flush the housing market, selling a home can be a long and often difficult process. That’s why it’s vital that you do whatever you can to make your home more attractive to buyers. The first step: curb appeal.

When talking to real estate agents, most will tell you that curb appeal is one of the most important factors in selling a home. Why? Because homes with strong curb appeal can fetch higher prices.

An attractive home exterior can boost the selling price of your home. After all, first impressions are nearly impossible to reverse or undo. So, what does that mean? Do you have to completely update your home’s appearance? Not necessarily.

The Importance of Curb Appeal

Curb appeal isn’t just about making your house more attractive; it’s about making it memorable and demanding positive attention. A home with high curb appeal can demand higher prices and take less time to sell. The outside is also what brings potential buyers inside.

The reality is that many homebuyers begin the buying process online and, of those, over half will drive by a home they saw online. That means that over half of your prospective home purchasers could make a decision on your house by what they can see from the street. Every part of your home’s exterior from the front entryway to the yard, driveway, sidewalk, walls, and windows can make an impression.

You probably won’t be able to update or polish every aspect of your home’s exterior, so what should you prioritize?

1. Wash Your House

Before you start worrying about your landscape, you should first focus on cleaning the exterior of your home. Just as you’d take the time to scrub your bathrooms and kitchen, you should take the time to wash your home exterior. By simply sprucing up the outside of your house, you can make a strong positive impression on potential buyers.

You can start and complete the process over a couple of weekends. All you need is a pressure washer, a bucket of soapy water, and a long-handled brush. Whether your home has wood, vinyl, metal, stucco, brick, or fiber cement siding, a little washing can remove years of dust and dirt. And don’t forget to wash your windows, clean your eaves, and power-spray your garage door.

If your walls could use a refresh, consider repainting. It’s not a low-budget option, but it can make a serious difference. If you can’t afford to paint the entire thing, just focus on the trim.

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2. Take Care of Your Roof

As a homeowner, you probably don’t think about your roof that often, but it’s one of the first things that a buyer notices and that an appraiser will assess. If your home has missing, curled, or faded shingles, it can seriously detract from your home’s value. The key is to determine if your roof just needs a solid cleaning or if it should be replaced entirely. The difference is cost and results.

Replacing and repairing your roof isn’t cheap. The national median cost of a new asphalt shingle roof is about $8,700. But you can also choose to simply clean your roof for closer to $1,000.

3. Keep It Manicured

A poorly manicured lawn can give a bad first impression to potential buyers. Good landscaping can make a huge difference in the value of your home; just make sure you don’t get carried away. You don’t have to spend excessively on premium landscaping. An appropriate yard facelift can happen for just a few hundred dollars and increase the value of your home by 5-10%.

Make sure your grass is neatly cut and green, replacing dead patches with sod from your local department store. You should also trim any trees and prune your shrubs. And, if needed, plant a few new shrubs to replace dead plants or fill in blank spaces. It’s also vital that you pull up weeds, remove dead foliage, and put down a new layer of mulch. Every little bit helps.

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4. Enhance Your Home’s Polish

Small enhancements can take your home from just another house on the block to “the house” to buy. And you don’t have to go crazy. These days your local department store has many affordable and attractive options for polishing your home’s exterior.

Here are a few ideas to enhance your curb appeal polish:

  • Add Color: It only takes a small splash of color to attract buyers. Add a tulip border near your entryway or add a brightly colored bench to your front porch.
  • New Numbers: Replace your old, outdated house numbers with shiny new numbers that match the style of your house. Consider something unique like copper, bronze, or brushed nickel.
  • Light Up: Homebuyers like homes that look good night and day. A quick fix is to add solar light fixtures to your walkways and custom light fixtures on your porch and around your garage door.

5. Add Character and Style

Curb appeal isn’t just about cleaning and repairing what you already have; it’s also about adding a little bit of personality to your home. Buyers are more likely to purchase a home that they can picture themselves living in. And it doesn’t take much to add that little extra “oomph.”

The typical front door is rather dull. To add some “pop” to your home, consider making your front door your home’s focal point. Replace the standard white door with an artistically rustic creation or paint it red for a burst of color. You can also add character by adding a new mailbox, installing a white picket fence, or laying down a cheery welcome mat.

Now that you know what you need to do to add curb appeal to your home, discover tips about staging your home or selling your home.

What Buying a House Can Do for You: Investment Opportunity and Financial Security

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Buying a home can be a great way to build wealth and protect your assets. Learn how home ownership can be a great investment decision for your financial security.

Some people may think of buying a home as a stressful experience that comes with an enormous commitment that can burden you for years. However, buying a home can be a great way to build wealth and protect your assets. Learn how homeownership can be a great investment decision that bolsters your financial security.

A Net Worth Boost

Research shows that on average, homeowners’ net worth is far higher than that of a renters’ net worth by up to 36%. And this wealth gap keeps widening every year. One explanation for this gap is the concept of forced savings. This is a situation where a person is essentially forced to save a certain amount of money every month for a significant expense, such as a house or a car.

Paying for a mortgage is a great example of forced savings. Paying for your mortgage month after month forces you to save a portion of your income to help pay off your property, which works towards increasing your home equity and net worth. Renters, on the other hand, increase the net worth of their landlords without building equity or assets.

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Tax Benefits of Homeownership

Buying a house shouldn’t be considered fully as an expense. Homeowners enjoy a variety of tax breaks that you might not know about. Here are some of the tax breaks homeowners may qualify for:

Mortgage Interest Deductions

The monthly mortgageyou must pay when you buy a house is split into two parts: one portion goes towards the actual principal amount, and the other portion pays off your interest on the mortgage. In some cases, the mortgage interest on your main and second residence is tax deductible.

To claim the mortgage interest, you must itemize your deductions on a Form 1040 Schedule A, unless you just want to just claim the standard deductions. You should get a 1098 Form from your mortgage lender at the beginning of every year showing the total amount you paid as interest for the previous year that you can claim for tax returns.

Property Taxes

City or state real estate taxes that you pay on your house may be filed as a deductible while itemizing the deductions on a Form 1040 Schedule A.

Mortgage Points

There are two types of mortgage points, and each point represents 1% of your total mortgage. Origination points, which is a fee that you pay to the borrower to compensate for their work that goes into processing a loan, are non-deductible. Discount points, which allow you to get discounted interest rates on your mortgage, are tax deductible.

Some of the interest that you pay on home equity loans are also deductible, along with interest on home improvement loan, and qualified moving expenses.

Using the Power of Leverage for Investing

One advantage of buying property for the purpose of investing is that you can borrow funds to make the purchase, as opposed to other investment opportunities such as stocks and bonds. Another advantage is that when inflation hits and prices increase, sometimes your house value will increase as well. If you borrow with a fixed rate mortgage, you will still be paying the future monthly payments with a currency that’s depreciated in value. As years go by, the equity on your property will increase, and once the principal amount is all paid off, you will have a debt-free asset that will continue to appreciate, depending on market conditions.

Compared to stacking up cash savings in your bank account and watching it lose value to inflation, investing in a property can secure your money in the long-term and act as a hedge against dollar debasement. Whether for diversification of your investment portfolio, or to secure a property where you and your family can grow and build memories, buying a home can be a timeless investment vehicle.

 

Now that you know the benefits of buying a house, visit sleggrealty.com  and find your dream home.

 

Do you know which real estate brand helped find homes for over 20,000 dogs?

 

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How about now?

What does the international real estate brand Coldwell Banker and the pet adoption website Adopt-a-Pet.com have in common? One word: home. The calling of Coldwell Banker agents is to help people find a place to call home, which with one small word change–“people” to “pets”–is the same mission of Adopt-a-Pet.com.

The two companies first partnered together in 2015 on the Coldwell Banker Homes for Dogs Project to help 20,000 adoptable dogs find loving homes. The goal of 20,000 adoptions was achieved in 9 months and the Project has since grown even wider thanks to the help of Coldwell Banker offices across North America working with local shelters to host adoption events and bring awareness to this cause.  To that effect, a National Pet Adoption Weekend will be held September 9-10 to unite even more animals with a forever (fur-ever?) home.

The initiative was originally inspired by the welcome home dance any pet parent gets when they walk in the door after a long day. Coldwell Banker captured this magical micro-moment in our ad campaign titled “Home’s Best Friend.” That story then evolved to feature lovable pups doing funny things in our 2016 campaign, “This is Home. This is Awesomeness.” And this year, in 2017, the current Coldwell Banker ad campaign “Somebody to Love,” shines a light on the Homes for Dogs Project and the landmark number of homes and dogs connected through the program.

At Coldwell Banker, we know that a home is made up of all of the things we love, including our furry friends. To learn more about the Homes for Dogs project, visit coldwellbanker.com/homesfordogs. And if your home is missing a little “Somebody to Love,” visit adopt-a-pet.com to find an adoptable pet in your area.

 

 

3 Things I Wish Someone Told Me as a First Time Home Buyer

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Wondering if it may be time to buy your first home? Take a look at this before you get started.

As I approach my four year “homeaversary” I decided to take a moment to reflect on all that I had on my mind as my husband and I prepared to make the biggest purchase of our lives. Here are some of the things I wish I had known sooner that I hope will help you, or someone you, know on their journey toward home ownership.

You Don’t Pay The Agent’s Commission as the Buyer

So many first time buyers wonder, “do you have to pay a real estate agent if you are buying a home?” For some, the thought of having to shell out extra cash when they are already doing all they can to save for their down payment is enough to make them walk away from the entire process before they even get going. Many are surprised to find out that the answer is actually no. A home buyer does not pay their agent, rather the agent earns their commission from the seller side of the transaction.*

Need help finding an agent? Take a look here.

Focus on Your Monthly Mortgage Payment, Not the Entire Thing

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is generally the first step you should take as a first time buyer. A common mistake that people often make is focusing on the total price of the home they can afford instead of the monthly payment they will be making. You may get approved for a $350,000 home, but this may not necessarily be what you can truly afford. Think of the amount your advisor suggests you can afford as a range. There is a high end and a low end and it is your job, not the mortgage advisor’s, to figure out what you are comfortable paying each month. It is crucial that you work with your advisor to understand how your down payment amount, credit, and the current mortgage rate affect your monthly payment.

Make the Jump!

To steal a line from Nike®…Just Do It! From agonizing over the down payment to finding the “perfect” home there are a ton of moments in the first time buying process that are going to make you feel nervous. Know that it is natural and that similar to having a baby, there is never really a 100% perfect time. You are always going to wish you had more money in the bank, hope that the home had a backyard that was just a little bigger, or that you were just a little more sure what direction your life will be taking in the next 5-10 years. My advice: if you feel comfortable with the payment, love the location and “bones” of the house and will feel proud to make this house a home, then take the leap and don’t look back. That’s what we did almost four years ago and it was one of the best decisions we ever made.

*As with anything exceptions may apply. One example where this may change is a For Sale By Owner (FSBO). To be certain of what the payment structure will be, speak with your agent as soon you begin working to discuss payment/commission.

The Correct Way to Pack Wine Glasses for a Move

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Prevent toasting to your home from a plastic cup by saving your delicate wine glasses with these packing techniques.

Guest post by Co-Founder NorthStar Moving Company Laura McHolm

If you are one of the lucky folks on the move this month, you are probably up to your knees in boxes and packing paper. You’re trying to figure out how to pack everything so it ends up in one piece in your new home. Well, let us help you with one of the most difficult items to pack: wine glasses. Because of their odd shape they are often packed incorrectly and their delicate glass and long stems get broken in the moving process.

We have seen too many new homeowners sipping out of plastic cups after a move. Let the plastic frat house red cups be gone! Let’s put some elegance into that new home from the start. Here’s a simple step-by-step guide on how to properly pack wine glasses to keep them in one piece and easily accessible after move day —

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  1. Select the Proper Box: One of the key factors to keeping your wine glasses from breaking or getting crushed is using the proper box. You need a box that is big enough and secure enough for your glasses. We recommend a “dishpack” box because it’s 5.2 cubic feet high and has double thick walls for extra protection.
  2. Gather the Right Materials: Once you have the proper box, gather the packing materials to wrap and protect the glasses. Here is what you will need:
    1. Packing Paper (Lot’s of it. And, get the plain recyclable packing paper, not newspaper so you don’t have to spend time washing newsprint off all your stemware.)
    2. Cardboard Inserts (If you are unable to get these inserts, we will teach you how to do without them)
  3. Wrap: Place a wine glass on packing paper horizontally. Grab a corner of the packing paper and roll the glass into the paper. Make sure to tuck the sides of the paper in, like you would do wrapping a burrito. Continue rolling the glass on the paper until you reach the end of the paper. Place the now wrapped glass back on another piece of packing paper horizontally and roll again. Repeat 3-5 times (depending on thickness of glass) with more sheets of packing paper until the glass is properly secured & cushioned. Continue for each wine glass. Label the outside of your “burrito” package: “glass” so it won’t get tossed out with the extra packing paper.
  4. Pack & Pad: Before placing any of the wrapped wine glasses in the box, cushion the bottom of box with packing paper. If you are using the cardboard inserts, position one layer of the inserts in the box on top of the packing paper and place one wrapped glass into each cardboard insert. If you are not using the cardboard inserts, place the wrapped glasses vertically in one layer in the box. Make sure to place them standing up and not lying flat. They are more secure vertically.
  5. Layer & Repeat: After completing the first layer, place packing paper on top. Add more inserts or place wrapped glasses vertically. Repeat these layers until the box is full.
  6. Stuff Empty Space: Once the box is full, fill any remaining space with crumpled packing paper. The layer of crumpled paper will add extra cushion and security for the glasses.
  7. Tape & Move: Lastly, securely tape the box closed and leave it for the movers to carefully move it to your new place! Be sure to label each side of the box “FRAGILE Wine glasses” and arrows pointing up on all sides of the box. Also, write the name of the room you want the box to end up in your new home: “kitchen” or “dining room.”

For more tips on how to pack wine glasses check out this video: http://www.northstarmoving.com/packing-videos#wine

Now you can look forward to that Bordeaux on the other end of your move. May your new home be full of many occasions to raise your glass! Cheers!

Laura McHolm is an organizational, moving & storage expert and co-founder of NorthStar Moving Company. NorthStar Moving Company is an award winning, “A+” rated company, which specializes in providing eco-luxury moving and storage services.

11 Smart Upgrades to Consider Before It’s Too Late

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Some upgrades are difficult or impossible to do later. Tackle these projects now to save yourself the headache.

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Houzz Contributor, Nicole Jacobs

Building a new home is a pleasure not everyone gets to experience. You get to construct your home exactly to your taste, with the components and finishes you want and can afford. Often you’ll be deciding what is worth the money to do now and what you’d prefer to save as a renovation project to do later. There are a number of factors to consider, including how long you plan to live in the home, whether you’ll be able to put upgrades directly onto your mortgage or pay out of pocket, and what upgrades are valuable for resale.

Upgrading later by doing it yourself can sometimes be a good plan allowing you to avoid paying the builder’s premium. But sometimes waiting will not only not save you money, it will cost you more in the end or create a headache when the upgrade is finally addressed.

So here is our now-or-never list: upgrades that will be difficult, costly or nearly impossible to do later. If you’re building a new home, you’d be wise to check these off the list now.

1. The Stairs

Before construction can begin, the builder has to finalize plans and submit them to your city, town or county for approval and permits. Depending on your builder and where you live, this may mean you’ll have an opportunity to make some changes to your plan prior to submission. One big element to address now is the staircase. If you’re building your home with a production builder — that is, a builder constructing a home development, usually in a suburban neighborhood — the typical builder’s-grade staircase is carpet over plywood. Unless you’re prepared to rip out the entire staircase later, which is no small feat, now is the time to request solid wood.

Wood staircases come in different varieties, so be sure to ask what your builder offers and at what additional charge. Wood upgrades are usually either oak or maple, which have very different looks. Oak has a heavier grain, while maple is smoother and more subtle in texture. These woods also differ on price, with maple being the more expensive.

Do you want a stair runner? If you’re on the fence, then wait. That way, you won’t have marks from installing the carpet left in your wood if you change your mind.

If you plan to upgrade to solid wood stairs, the other thing to consider is the flooring that abuts the staircase. The stairs are stained on site, and if you select a prefinished flooring, it’s important to ensure that the stain used on the staircase is the best possible match. Bear in mind that an exact match is unlikely, but you’ll usually be able to get pretty close. Ask questions and be involved in the stain selection process, or at least make sure the painter custom-mixes a stain to work with your flooring.

2. Recessed Lighting

While can lights themselves are generally inexpensive to buy at any big-box store, installing them is another matter. Avoid the hassle of an electrician cutting into your brand-new drywall to install the lights and switches. If your builder has an upgrade, just go for it now.

3. Tub and Shower

Two of the first elements to be installed in your home after framing are the bathtubs and showers. If you want an upgrade such as soaker tubs, jets or multiple shower heads, plan for it now. Once tubs and showers are installed and tiled, they require a sledgehammer to change out later.

4. Niches and Half Walls

Structural upgrades in the bathroom that would require a full remodel to do later are wise to tackle now. These include tiled niches — perfect for soap and shampoo bottles — as well as half walls for glass shower walls and doors.

You might also think about how you can incorporate niches and half walls in other areas of your home, perhaps for displaying art or partitioning rooms, respectively. Any remodel that requires framing and drywall is messy and disruptive, so unless you’re prepared to live with the dust, now is the time to discuss these ideas with your builder.

5. Radiant Floor Heating

Radiant floor heating is nice to have, especially in the bathroom to warm your tootsies on what would otherwise be cold tile. But this is one of those items that needs to be done before the tile is installed, so keep this in mind if it’s on your wish list. Installing it later is a big job that requires busting up the tile first and having a clean subfloor on which to install the product before tiling again.

6. Door From Garage to House

Some builders include this, while many offer it as an upgrade. Access from the garage to the house is a great feature, allowing you to avoid the elements. Because of grading, there are some circumstances where a door to the house from the garage is not possible. Be sure to ask so you aren’t surprised later.

7. Anything to Do With Windows

Have a close look at your plan and find out whether it’s possible to upgrade the windows or add more. Depending on your city’s bylaws regarding the percentage of glass you can have in correlation with the distance to the property line, your builder may be able to add a couple more windows to your plan or enlarge the ones that are already there. Also, if you like the look of windows with mullions, this may be an upgrade as well.

8. Gas Fireplace

To decide whether to tackle this project now or later, consider these facts about gas fireplace installation. For starters, you obviously need to run a gas line to the fireplace location. If you want your fireplace to be flush with the wall, you’ll usually need a foundational bump-out to support the weight of the unit, and that must be on the plans early. If you like the look of a flush fireplace wall, such as the one in this photo, building one later would become a pretty major structural renovation, so best to do it now.

If it’s too late to build the fireplace out the exterior wall, the unit must be installed into the room, usually framed into a drywall box-out. It’s possible that you’d be able to select the depth of the box-out — as in, how far into the room it will go — to accommodate flanking bookcases, for example. This is also a good opportunity to have an electrical outlet for your TV installed above the fireplace, if you desire. Also, if you require a gas line for your kitchen range, it’s best to do it now.

9. Insulation

An item that is really impossible to upgrade later is the type of insulation you have in your walls. Builders will usually use batt insulation at the minimum code requirement, but often you’re able to upgrade to a higher value batt, or a more expensive spray foam. Looking to have a future music or theater room? Ask about your soundproofing options now, as this affects both the type of insulation and drywall used.

10. A Future Basement Bathroom

One pretty valuable upgrade, in terms of function and resale value, is the basement bathroom. It’s inadvisable to finish a basement within the first year of its build. Among the reasons: The foundation needs time to settle, the concrete needs to dry and finishing it too early could void a new homeowner’s warranty. But preparing for finishing it is wise. Upgrading to add the basement bathroom rough-in, which means the ABS pipes and drains are in place and ready to go, is something that will be costly and disruptive to do later.

11. Tech Stuff

Anything that is wired in your walls is best done when the house is being built, along with your other electrical work. Think speakers, outlet placement, conduits for equipment wires, data ports, alarm systems or smart-home technologies. Again, punching holes in drywall all over your house to accommodate these items is more than an inconvenience, and it’s an expense you’ll want to dodge.