How Home Tech Can Improve Your Neighborhood

See how new technology could help you interact with the people who live next door.

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Houzz Contributor, Kayla Matthews

The web has connected people around the globe, yet it’s also played a role in disconnecting people from those living right next door. There is a growing trend of separation, with one-third of Americans saying they’ve never interacted with their neighbors. Technology could shift these trends, though, by bringing back the tradition of befriending and trusting your neighbor.

What is the Echo Show?

The Echo Show is a variation of Amazon’s Echo device. Echo is a smart, voice-enabled wireless speaker that features a personal assistant named Alexa. Users can ask Alexa questions about the weather, events or any other topic. Alexa also works by setting alarms and reminders, as well as providing a slew of other services.

Echo Show adds to Echo’s initial offerings by including an LCD screen and front-facing camera. Its design mimics the countertop TV sets that are still found in some kitchens, which hints at Amazon’s intended goal for the product.

One of Show’s unique features is Drop In. This feature lets people chat and visit with one another instantly whenever they want to. Only those approved, however, can drop in. If you’re unavailable, friends can leave a voice message for you to listen to later. You can also chat without using the front camera.

 

How the Echo Show Could Change Communication

Amazon’s promotion of the Echo Show and even the naming of Drop In indicates the company’s intention to re-create the openness among neighbors and families that marked the childhoods of baby boomers.

Staying connected through technology isn’t a new concept. Just consider phones. Now friends and families across the country, and even the world, use social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter to keep in touch. Information on social media, however, can be inaccuate.

A study in the United Kingdom found 75 percent of polled users lied on their social media profiles, with only 18 percent considering their profiles to be an accurate representation of themselves. In a separate study commissioned by smartphone maker HTC, two-thirds of users admitted to posting pictures that made them appear more adventurous or outgoing to their social media family.

Because Echo Show doesn’t go through the filter of social media but instead provides a real-time view of your kitchen (or wherever you place your device), it lets your family or friends see you in your everyday life, without hashtags or filters. It’s you — cleaning the counter, putting away groceries or preparing dinner while having a conversation.

 

How the Echo Show Could Bring Neighbors Together

The Echo Show could bring neighbors together because it makes hands-free video communication so easy.

Children play a significant role in Echo Show’s potential. They go to school and ride the bus with other kids from the neighborhood, forming friendships that continue even after school.

The idea is that elementary or middle school-age kids will want to talk to their friends after school. Echo Show provides that option, but in a family gathering space that inevitably leads to communication between neighborhood parents.

Conversations then extend outside of Echo Show and to school events, play dates and get-togethers.

It’s a gradual progress, but one that could bring significant change to neighborhoods across the U.S. as people build friendships with those who live right next door.

While online relationships can be meaningful, relationships with your neighbors have been proven to offer health benefits.

Research has shown that when you’re connected with your neighbors, you reduce your chance of a heart attack. You also have an improved sense of well-being when you trust your neighbors — similar to the trust you have for someone who “drops in.”

Whether the Echo Show will impact neighborhood relationships is yet to be seen, but it does have the potential to change neighborhoods and foster a certain closeness that hasn’t been seen since the 1970s. That seems to be one of Amazon’s goals.

Other Tech to Keep You Friendly With Your Neighbors:

  • Nextdoor is a website that works like a private social network just for your neighborhood. Neighbors use it to do everything from alerting others about a break-in to finding lost pets.
  • With less focus on messaging and video chatting, Meetup is a great service for finding people near you who share your hobbies and interests. It’s a good way to find out about book clubs, hiking groups and pretty much anything else you can imagine. What better way to make new neighbor friends than by enjoying your hobbies together?

Your turn: Would you let your neighbors and family “drop in” on you with the Echo Show?

How to Use Smart Home to Build Your Advantage

Learn how staying sharp on smart home can help you build your brand

When 79% of agents say that buyers are interested in smart home tech and 54% of sellers say they would install it to make their home sell faster – you know that smart home is a trend worth understanding.

Being able to recognize smart home tech in a listing and guiding a buyer on how it can change the way they live in their home sets you apart. Smart home tech is no longer just a high-end upgrade. It’s now a must-have in markets as diverse as Boston and Des Moines.

“If a buyer under 35 walks into a home without a smart thermostat they’re walking out,” says Jim Hibbs, sales associate with Coldwell Banker Mid-America Group in Des Moises, Iowa.  “If a home doesn’t have smart upgrades you’re really limiting the prospective buyer pool. Smart Home tech also makes the whole home feel updated.”

The data supports this. Last year 71% of Americans said they wanted a move-in ready home and nearly half of that group said a property needed smart home tech to be considered move-in ready.

As consumer demand for smart home tech has soared so has the number of companies claiming to offer the best products and services. Wading through all of the info can be daunting. So we’ve compiled some resources to help you stay up-to-date.

Stay in the Smart Home Know

The Coldwell Banker Blue Matter blog tracks all things related to smart home and real estate. It has a full library of videos and short articles with tips, data and advice from our network on how to use smart home to market yourself and your listings. CNET is another excellent source for smart home information. They’re famous for their in-depth and honest product reviews, their best of lists are a great quick resource for product recommendations.

Help Your Clients “Smart Stage” Their Homes

Another way to use smart home to your advantage is the smart home staging kit. The kit provides home sellers with an easy way to “smart stage” (upgrading a home with smart home tech) before putting it on the market. The kit provides you with a marketing edge. Preliminary data shows that homes designated and marked as a “smart home” on coldwellbanker.com are receiving two times more conversions than the site average.

“Putting in smart home tech helps a property stand-out against the competition,” says Ricardo Rodriguez, sales associate with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Boston, Massachusetts.  “Smart Home gives a listing an edge and can allow you to position it at a more advantageous price point.”

The smart home staging kit includes smart home tech from the most popular product categories: temperature, lighting, security, safety and voice control. The products all work together wirelessly and can be controlled by voice through the Echo Dot. As an added plus installing these products means that the home meets the Coldwell Banker / CNET Smart Home Definition.

Not only does installing these products give a home a marketing edge it also has lasting lifestyle benefits for the new buyer. The Nest Learning Thermostats helps self-regulate a home’s temperature and has long-term energy saving and money benefits for the owner. The August Smart Lock allows you to lock or unlock your home via your smart phone from anywhere in the world all while monitoring who is coming and going through your Nest Security Camera. And installing Lutron Caséta means never coming home to a dark home!

Coldwell Banker agents and their clients have a further edge when it comes to smart staging. The Smart Home Staging kit can be purchased at a discount by going here. Please note a CB Exchange Log-In is required to view this page and receive your discount.

Get Smart Home Certified

Coldwell Banker is the only real estate brand with an official smart home curriculum and certification. The self-paced course is available to all Coldwell Banker agents; upon completion your agent profile is automatically updated with a smart home icon showcasing your expertise to potential buyers and sellers.

Dressing Up My Door: Adding Privacy to Doorways

Want to let sunlight into your home while keeping prying eyes out? Here are a few of our favorite options!

The benefits of allowing natural sunlight to flood into a home are manifold. An air of expansiveness, livability and distinction characterizes an exceptionally well-lit home. It’s no wonder, then, that the installation of French doors, sliding patio doors and door sidelights are among the most popular home improvement projects.

While many homeowners may desire the enhanced interior aesthetic that comes from these glass-paned solutions, they prefer to have them without compromising on privacy. There are many options for blinds and shades that let sunlight in and keep prying eyes out without compromising the look of newly installed windows and doors. Here are a few of our favorites:

1. Vertical Blinds and Sliding Panels – Vertical blinds pair beautifully with sliding glass doors in both form and function, with their long, elegant drape and a myriad of available styles. Because they slide on a horizontal axis, they allow for easy opening and closing. The slats can be tilted at any angle you choose, so you have total control over how much light can filter in or change the direction of light while deflecting the wayward gaze of passersby. Vertical blinds also have sheer options, which filter some amount of light even when closed, and they provide a modern aesthetic.

Sliding panels are similar to vertical blinds, but they’re made of wider pieces of material and offer a more updated look. They also provide more options for opening – from either side or from the center. Available in a variety of materials and colors, they can complement any room’s décor.

2. Shades – Shades are a good option for doors that open in and out, like French doors. Unlike the many-slatted design of most blinds, shades are composed of solid pieces of fabric which offer full coverage for privacy. With options ranging from cellular to Roman, shades can be made from a wider variety of materials that match the look of your door, and may even feature some degree of translucence to allow a warm glow to permeate your interior even when they’re closed. Motorized options can be programmed to retract or extend per the time of day, giving you a turnkey window treatment solution that enhances the style of your doors.

3. Shutters – These window treatments are an excellent option for windows around doorways. Plantation shutters work particularly well as adornments for door sidelights.
Mounted into the window frame, shutters stay tightly attached from top to bottom so they won’t sway when the door opens and closes. Simply adjust the slats to control the light entering the home. Available in wood and faux-wood, the aesthetic of your shutters can be tailored to complement the look of your home. When closed, shutters form a barricading façade that guarantees your privacy from nosy neighbors and would-be intruders alike. With the proper angling of your shutters, however, you can still maintain that same privacy while letting natural light in.

4. Smart Glazing – For a thoroughly modern solution, consider smart glazing window treatments as an alternative to traditional frosted glass. Crystals inside of these high-tech panes respond to electrical currents to change your glazing from clear to opaque and anything in between, completely on demand. The best part? Your smart system can be programmed to change dynamically with the time of day, allowing you to adopt a “set it and forget it” philosophy to the privacy and aesthetics of your doors and windows.

The beautiful doors and doorways in your home can welcome visitors as well as natural light, while still allowing for privacy and security. Maintain their character with a customized window treatment that matches the style and function of your home.


Katie Laird is the Director of Social Marketing for Blinds.com and a passionate home decorator for her family with a love of all things Mid-Century Modern and blue. If you are looking for more information about window blinds or other options to help add privacy to your home, visit the Blinds.com website.

4 Easy Ways to Stage Your Home to Make It More Attractive to Home Buyers

So you’re ready to sell your home – but is your home ready? Learn how you can stage your home in 4 easy steps from the pros at Coldwell Banker.

So you’re ready to sell your home – but is your home ready? These quick and easy steps to stage your home are inexpensive, but will really stand out to buyers and increase the appeal of your home.

1. Clean Up

The first step to staging your home is storing away the clutter. This will depersonalize your home and allow potential buyers to picture themselves living in the house. This is also a great opportunity to get rid of or donate items you don’t want to transport to your new place.

2. A Fresh Coat of Paint Goes a Long Way

Freshen up and stage your home by painting your walls. This hide any marks, fingerprints, or discoloration and make your home feel refreshed and new again. Choose light, neutral shades when painting to allow potential buyers to easily personalize the home with the color of their choice.

3. Consider Your Lighting

Stage your home with great lighting. Do a walk-through of your home to make sure plenty of natural light is coming in throughout the day. Purchasing LED lights are a great energy-efficient option that will brighten up any room.

4. Step Up Your Curb Appeal

Your home should make a great first impression from the moment potential buyers drive up. Hiring professional landscapers will ensure your lawn and shrubbery are manicured to be most appealing to buyers. Make sure bushes and trees are trimmed and pruned, and that any flower beds are well-maintained.

7 Tips for Home Improvement from Coldwell Banker

 

If you choose wisely, home improvements can raise the value of a property investment. See these 7 tips to do your home improvement right.

While improving one’s lifestyle is a fundamental reason for a home renovation, homeowners should also be aware that with proper research, planning and thoughtfulness, home improvements can ultimately raise the value of a property investment.

The professionals at Coldwell Banker have identified several things homeowners should consider before home renovations begin.

Think Long-Term Home Improvement: Remodeling Magazine reported that money spent on a kitchen remodel produces the highest return on investment. Bathroom renovations and adding additional rooms such as guest bedrooms or studies also traditionally score well. Homeowners should consult with a local real estate sales associate to determine if their plans will positively influence the resale value. A sales associate may be able to offer suggestions on renovations that will provide a significant return on investment.

Healthy Balance: While homeowners should consider a home’s future value when making renovations, changes that enhance their lifestyle should also come into play. More size, better layout and contemporary looks can help a family find more pride in their home and increase the home’s overall value. Life-altering milestones – like having children, having extended family move in and work-at-home-jobs – provide good cause to renovate.

Seek Out Referrals: Once committed to the process, hiring the right home improvement contractor is critical. A great way to choose a contractor is to contact salespeople at stores where contractors buy their supplies, such as lumberyards, window stores, cabinet shops and hardware stores. It is also a good idea to speak with friends, family and neighbors that have been through the process before, as well as check the Web sites of local community associations.

Obtain Multiple Bids: Always get at least three estimates on a project. Contractors can bid on the same project using different prices and timeframes. Check that all the bids are based on the same scope and quality of work, which is the only way to do a fair and effective comparison.

Interview Your Home Improvement Contractors: It is important for the homeowner to talk about a contractor’s style and process. A strong rapport and close communication with the contractor will increase the likelihood of the project going smoothly. If, for example, the homeowner will want to know every detail during the project, they probably will not be content with a contractor that provides little information during the interview. It is also important to verify that the contractor has a license and insurance certificate. Most states require a contractor to carry worker’s compensation, property damage and personal liability insurance.

Follow up on References and Verify the Contractor’s License: Be sure to check the contractor’s credentials. Ask how many similar jobs the contractor has completed, how much experience they have, whether they guarantee their work and who will be in charge of the project. Reputable contractors typically supply names and phone numbers of recent references. It is worth calling a minimum of three people to verify the contractor’s credentials. There are several good questions to ask: Did the reference pay a fair price, was the work done properly and would the reference hire the contractor again? Did the contractor show up every day and finish the project when expected?

Contact Local Consumer Protection Agencies: Call the local consumer protection agency and the Better Business Bureau to check if there have been any unresolved complaints registered against the contractor. Also contact the contractor licensing agency and local building inspectors to confirm that the contractor has a clean record.

Weighing the Pros and Cons of New Construction Homes and Older Homes

Trying to decide on purchasing a new construction or older home? Read about the Pros and Cons of both and decide which option is best for you.

Whether you are buying a new or old home, there are plenty of things to think about.

Pros and Cons of New Construction Homes and Older Homes

When searching for your home, keep in mind that you are in control of the transaction. You choose your real estate agent, home inspector, mortgage provider and of course, your home. All of these decisions can sometimes be overwhelming, and for some people, turn what should be an enjoyable experience into something they dread. However, with the guidance from a knowledgeable Coldwell Banker® Slegg Realty agent, the purchase of your next home will be something you celebrate and enjoy for many years. Your lifestyle and how much you enjoy the ongoing maintenance and upkeep associated with homeownership are key considerations to finding the best home for you. Most people prefer new construction over existing homes. But older homes have some advantages that should not be overlooked, and may make an existing home the right choice for you. Let’s compare the pros and cons of each:

Buying a New Construction Home – The Pros

The vast majority of new homes are built in subdivisions with a unified style and restrictions in place to maintain the property values. The developers chose the location of the subdivision for one very important reason: it is where home buyers want to live. Developers factor in what people in the area can afford, amenities that most people want, and home features that are desirable to their targeted market. Simply put, they make the process as easy and enticing as possible for you. There are other advantages to opting for a newly constructed house:

  • During construction you can add the extras you have always dreamed of having in your home. A garden tub is an expensive modification in existing homes; not possible in some older homes.
  • New homes feature the latest styles like an open floor plan and large family rooms for entertaining guest.
  • Most new homes have low-maintenance exteriors such as vinyl-wrapped windows, trim, and railings. That means less time spent on routine maintenance. You are free to spend your off hours golfing, traveling, or just enjoying your home with a backyard cookout.
  • Architects design new homes to maximize space. Engineers develop construction materials for optimal energy efficiency. Highly efficient HVAC systems, windows, and Energy Star appliances equate to lower utility bills.
  • New homes come with a one-year warranty; some builders include warranties for up to 10-years.

Buying a New Construction Home – The Cons

There are often incentives and free upgrades if you use the builder’s recommended lender. But that may not be the best deal for you. A builder can require that you get qualified by their preferred lender, but they cannot mandate that you to use that company for your mortgage. They also cannot charge buyers who choose their own lender a higher price. But they can reduce the listed price as incentive for using their lender. While allowing the developer/builder to streamline the process is convenient, new constructions come with some drawbacks:

  • There is very little room for negotiation. Builders may work with you on some upgrades, but most stay firm on price. Some home buyers in large multiphase developments, who have attempted to sell their home after a few years, sometimes find themselves competing against the builder for potential buyers. They also may end up selling for less than they originally paid for their home.
  • New constructions often lack mature landscaping and may have smaller lots than existing homes. The developer generally maximizes available land. The result is limited outdoor space and extremely close neighbors.
  • It could take many months or years for the development to build out and new construction to cease. That means heavy equipment stirring up dust, mounds of debris or large bins, and the noise of saws and nail guns year-round.
  • You will be limited on possible modifications to your home and what you can have in your yard by tight subdivision restrictions.

Buy an Older Home – The Pros

Large trees remind many potential buyers of their childhood home. The value of a spacious yard for pets and children to play in is difficult to quantify. There are no rigid homeowners associations or the costly dues that come along with them in most older neighborhoods. Typically, existing homes cost about 20 percent less per square foot than new construction in the same area. Some other advantages:

  • You have more styles to choose from. In your price range and selected area, you will find brick homes, single story homes, and many different floor plans.
  • Individual sellers are often more negotiable on price. They may be motivated by other life factors to sell fast.
  • Neighborhoods are more established. The final determining factor for many home buyers is which place feels most like home. There is a sense of community in older neighborhoods that is missing in some new developments.
  • They tend to have more character. Part of the joy of owning them is you can upgrade them and fix them up to your own preferences.

Buy an Older Home – The Cons

If you are handy and want a home you can make your own, make sure you the home is a fixer-upper home worth investing in. If you are not particularly handy at home improvement projects or knowledgeable about the cost of home repairs, older homes can become large money pits. The seller’s disclosure may offer some protection. Any known issues must be revealed, and if there were major problems like foundation issues or leaky basements, it should surface in this documentation. Additionally, a home warranty can protect buyers from expensive appliance repairs. There are still some other cons to owning an older home that you should keep in mind:

  • Typically much less energy-efficient than new homes. If they do have things like thermal windows, they are less efficient than modern windows. Retrofitting new windows to older homes is quite a challenge.
  • May have small rooms that you are stuck with. Load bearing walls will prevent you from making significant changes to the existing floor plan. Some mirrors and bright colors may make the rooms look bigger, but they will always be the same size.
  • Generally require ongoing maintenance that will quickly turn into costly repairs if not done. Additionally, older homes have less useful life remaining for things like the furnace, roof, and appliances.

With a knowledgeable real estate professional on your side, you can make an informed decision about your purchase of any new or existing home. You should have any house you plan to buy inspected by a certified home inspector. Make your decision based on a logical assessment of your needs. Ideally, you should have a second and third choice in case you need to walk away from negotiations on your ideal home. People who make objective decisions about their home purchase based on lifestyle preference and aptitude for home improvements are more likely to feel good about it in the years ahead.

How to Keep a Small Kitchen Organized

It can be tricky keeping a compact cooking space tidy, but these ideas can help keep a small kitchen organized.

Houzz Contributor, Cheryl Freedman

Contrary to what you might think, you don’t need acres of counter space or dozens of drawers and cupboards to have an organized kitchen that’s a joy to cook in. If anything, a smaller kitchen can encourage you to streamline your stuff and live more simply. Who wants cabinets chock-full of unloved pasta machines and dusty bread makers anyway? Check out these easy ways to restore order to your less-than-enormous kitchen.

1. Start with a utensil rack. Not only will it give you a place to hang slotted spoons and ladles for easy access while cooking, it will also free up precious drawer space.

Even in the tiniest kitchen, you can usually find somewhere to squeeze one in — under a cupboard or shelf or above the stove. Stainless steel models work in most styles of rooms and are easy to wipe down.

2. Get a knife holder. A knife block or magnetic rack is one of those simple items that really do make a difference in how functional your kitchen is. After all, rummaging around in a drawer for a piece of kitchen gear you use frequently is time-consuming and dispiriting.

A wall-mounted rack like this one keeps things orderly without swallowing too much space. Buy decent knives if you can afford it, as they should last a lifetime. One advantage of a magnetic rack is that you can slowly build up your collection of knives, buying one at a time, rather than having to invest in one large block complete with knives, which can be pricey. If you’re starting from scratch, a bread knife, paring knife and chef’s knife are essential.

3. Assign dedicated storage areas. Kitchen clutter can easily accrue, so it makes sense to assign different cupboards a specific purpose and stick to it. And dedicate a few minutes every couple of weeks to returning stray plastic lids or pot covers to their homes and sweeping out spilled spices and coffee grounds — it really will make a difference in how pleasurable (and easy) your kitchen is to use day to day.

4. Reduce your numbers. If your kitchen is really mini, or even if it isn’t, think about doing a good edit of your paraphernalia. Be honest: Do you really need more than a handful of plates, mugs or glasses if there are only one or two of you?

Having less stuff can be immensely freeing — and will significantly reduce the amount of time you spend washing up, which is a big bonus.

5. Gather and display. This cute kitchen demonstrates how you can be organized and chic at the same time. A charming crock to hold wooden spoons, a wall-mounted crate or two to provide a home for vintage-style scales and jugs, a small wall-mounted spice rack — they all add a pretty touch as well as having a practical function.

6. Be clever with your cabinets. Use every spare inch in a small kitchen by building recessed shelves where feasible. Here, they surround an integrated refrigerator. With this design solution, wall space that’s too skinny or awkwardly shaped for extra cabinets can still be used to hold frequently used items. In this kitchen, it also helps open up the room and leads the eye to an appealing feature.

The other clever feature in this kitchen is the cookbook niche above the door — another neat storage trick that doesn’t take up too much room. Ask a builder if one can be carved out from an existing wall.

7. Go minimal. Are you in the process of picking new cabinets for your compact kitchen? Consider this look. Ultra-plain, handleless cabinets in a nude hue are soothing to look at and give a sense of visual order. Pick a seamless backsplash such as this slab of marble, since tiles with grout can look busy.

8. Get in a tight corner. When space is tight, an ingenious trio of pullout corner drawers is a lifesaver, helping to solve the problem of lost space in those awkward-to-access base cabinets.

If you’re remodeling, think about how you’d use such drawers — for cutlery, towels, pans, dishes? Here, a slimmer top drawer is complemented by the two deeper ones, so all the bases are covered.

9. Put the pans away. Similarly a pullout pan rack can be a gift in a small kitchen, creating an organized home for frying pans and saucepans and keeping you from tearing your hair out as you hunt around in the backs of cupboards. Also try using racks for items such as steamers or large, unwieldy casserole dishes.

10. Organize inside. It may sound like a no-brainer, but often what makes a kitchen, big or small, organized is how we arrange the insides of our cupboards. Shelf and drawer dividers, hooks, racks and other storage devices are key to keeping order. Consider what works for you and go custom if you can. Are you a Mason jar and Tupperware kind of person? Do you prefer mugs on hooks, shelves or in drawers? Storage is often about personal preference. Here, the slim slots for chopping boards and placemats are a brilliant idea, as is the slim pullout spice rack.

Tell us: How have you organized your small kitchen? Share your ideas in the Comments.

3 Simple DIY Projects to Tackle this Summer

Summer is here and it’s the perfect time to enjoy the great outdoors, even if just in your own backyard. Spruce up your yard or patio with these three simple DIY projects to make your next outdoor summer party a huge success!

Summer is halfway over and it’s the perfect time to enjoy the great outdoors, even if just in your own backyard.

Does your yard or patio need a little sprucing up? Perhaps you’re dreaming of hosting a summer party but your outdoor space isn’t quite guest-ready.

Don’t worry, we’ve got some simple and affordable DIY projects that might help you inject a little curb appeal and make your home the place to be this summer.

Freshen Things Up with a Coat of Paint

One of our favorite DIY projects to freshen up patio furniture involves simple spray paint.

You will want to thoroughly clean your furniture first to remove any dust or debris. If older layers of paint are chipping off, a wire brush might come in handy to smooth the surfaces. Anytime you are removing old layers of paint, take precaution by wearing a dust mask (available at your local hardware store).

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This is one of those DIY projects that allows you to get really creative and let your style shine through. There are so many shades and textures of spray paint to select from, with options for painting nearly every type of surface.

Bright cheerful colors are sure to pop on your summer patio while peaceful neutrals and trendy metallics can create a more lush, sophisticated result.

Create a Multi-Purpose Container Herb Garden

Another great way to add some life to your backyard or patio space is by planting a container herb garden. Not only are they fairly easy to create, but container herb gardens are also one of those DIY projects that serve many purposes.

First, fresh herbs add lots of flavor to your cooking, which will come in handy as you plan a menu for your next summer party.

Next, you can choose colorful containers or pots that complement your patio style for lots of visual impact.

Finally, certain herbs are known to repel insects, including those pesky mosquitoes that love to crash outdoor gatherings. Basil, lavender, and mint are three great multipurpose herbs to grow.

Assemble a Portable Summer Party Kit

One great way to make sure you are ready for every possible impromptu summer gathering is by assembling a summer party kit.

Your DIY party kit might include things like disposable plates, cups, and napkins as well as fun decorative items such as a piñata or strings of colorful lights. You could also include sunscreen or battery-powered, handheld misting fans for your guests. And don’t forget skewers for roasting hot dogs or marshmallows for s’mores.

An old wooden crate or a plastic bin makes a great container for your party kit. This is one of those DIY projects that requires a little work on the front end but makes things much easier later on. Having all your essential party supplies gathered together will make organizing your next outdoor summer party easier and less stressful.

Removing Carpet: Easy, Expensive, or Exasperating?

If you’re thinking of removing carpet from a room in your home, you’ll need to figure out if you’re going to do it yourself or if you’re going to hire a professional to do it for you. Removing it yourself can be done if you know what you’re doing.

You may think removing carpet is not a “thing”  because it seems like everyone you know has hardwood flooring. You’d be surprised to learn that many people, especially those buying older homes that have been untouched for years, have to figure out how to remove carpeting that’s been around for generations. People encounter old carpeting in old brownstones, limestones, estate apartments, and single family homes in the outer boroughs. They usually remove carpeting because they want to expose original hardwoods underneath, put new hardwoods or some other type of hard-surface flooring in, or even put in brand new carpeting. Whatever your motive for removing carpeting, you’ll want to be careful not to damage the surface underneath. Following are some options for safely removing old carpet.

Gather Your Tools

In order to make easy going of removing carpet in your space, you need to make sure that you have all the tools necessary for the job on hand. Luckily, you don’t need many: knee pads, utility knife, work gloves, goggles or safety glasses, pair of locking pliers, and something to wrap the pieces in are all you need to get the job done.

Clear the Room Before You Begin

Remove all obstacles (furniture, clutter, curtains, etc.) before you begin. There should be nothing in the room except you and the carpet. If there is a door to the room and it swings inward, see if you can remove it from its hinges. This will help prevent any obstructions getting in your way as you remove the carpet in places like doorways and corners.

Start In a Corner

Start in one of your room’s corners, and put on your gloves. Next, use pliers or even a crow bar to dig into the corner of the carpet and start pulling. If your carpet was installed using tacks, you’ll feel them start to pull loose as you edge along. The carpet should start to raise as you move along the wall. As you move, bend the carpet down a couple of feet. When you come to the end of one wall, take a knife and cut the carpet into strips. Doing so will make it a lot easier to gather the entire carpet and remove it all at once when you’re done with the task.

Or . . . Hire a Reputable Professional

Seriously, if you can spare the expense, the easiest way to remove carpeting is to get someone who knows what they’re doing to do it. There are carpet removal companies that can seamlessly remove carpeting in a matter of a few hours — give or take depending on the job. Getting a company with great recommendations is key; you don’t want to have to worry about a damaged floor after you have the carpet removed. Some companies that specialize in junk removal are also experts in carpet removal. You could also turn to carpet and floor restoration/installation company.

8 Summer Projects for Creating the Ultimate Backyard

Is your piece of the great outdoors feeling a little uninspiring? It’s time to add a little more fun to your backyard space. We’ve rounded up eight easy summer projects to help you design the ultimate backyard!

Is your piece of the great outdoors feeling a little blah? It’s time to add more fun to your backyard.

We’ve rounded up 10 summer projects to help you design the ultimate backyard for your DFW home!

1. Create Shade

It’s undeniable . . . DFW summers are hot! Don’t hide inside. Make your backyard more pleasant by creating shade. Install a patio awning, build a shaded pergola, or add umbrellas for instant shade.

Is it still too hot? Generate an instant breeze with outdoor cooling fans.

Summer Projects for Creating the Ultimate Backyard: Adding Shade

2. Add Fun with Lawn Games

Create friendly competition with lawn games. Set up an outdoor game station for endless summer fun. From cornhole to croquet, select a range of games for everyone.

Feeling crafty? Browse Pinterest for DIY inspiration. This giant Jenga looks so fun!

3. Set Up the Ultimate Al Fresco Dining Room

If you love entertaining, creating an outdoor dining room should be at the top of your summer projects list! Start by investing in a table or cleaning up the one your already have. Add color with outdoor cushions and pillows, and use a rug to anchor the space.

Set the table with fun and inexpensive plastic dishes and pretty linens that will last this summer and beyond. Don’t forget candles and flowers.

4. Arrange Ample Seating

Choosing the right seating is a high priority for any outdoor space. For large spaces, break your backyard into distinct areas. Set up separate spaces for eating, cooking, and relaxing.

Create an outdoor living room to relax at the day’s end, add a couple chairs in a quiet corner, hang a hammock, or place a bench in your garden. This DIY outdoor bench made from a salvaged door looks like a fun summer project.

For small backyards, a cafe table and chairs are charming and compact. Add comfort with chair cushions.

Summer Projects for Creating the Ultimate Backyard: Add Ample Seating

5. Brighten and Add Character with Lights

Make the most of breezy summer nights with a well lit backyard. Just like you would inside your home, layer lighting to create functionality and ambiance. Start by adding wall lights or lanterns to brighten the whole space. Next, add task lighting, such as mounted light by the grill or an outdoor lamp next to your favorite chair. Finally, accent your space with strings of globe lights, candles, or spotlights on landscaping.

6. Arrange an Outdoor Bar

Create the ultimate outdoor entertaining space by setting up a bar. A bar cart is the perfect place to store your favorite drinks during parties and lazy afternoons. Repurpose a vintage table or make your potting bench do double duty by clearing the top. Install hooks to hold towels and bar tools, add plenty of ice, and top the cart with a large tray to make transporting drinks and glassware easier.

7. Grow Something

No summer projects list would be complete without talking about plants!

Before you plant anything, consider how much time and patience you have for maintenance, then make a plan. Window boxes and container gardens are perfect for beginners, or if you’re more ambitious, create flower beds or a vegetable garden. For best results, choose plants that thrive in our DFW climate.

8. Create a Grilling Station

Love grilling? Then, creating your very own grilling station is a must!

Sure, you’ll need a grill, but add a cart for holding serving plates and tools, too. Use the cart to store your favorite spices, clean towels, and other grilling accessories.

When you’re finishing cooking, simply roll the cart to the table and dinner is served!

Summer Projects for Creating the Ultimate Backyard: Create a Grilling Station