How to Make Your Move Less Stressful

Make your move less stressful by taking these steps to protect yourself and your belongings

Houzz Contributor, Laura Gaskill

From horror stories of lost, stolen and broken items to surprise charges tacked on to an already high bill, moving is not for the faint of heart. And after recently pitching in to help my mom through a downsizing and a big move, I’ve learned a few things about working with professional movers. If you have a move coming up, read on for eight tips to help your move go smoothly.

1. Take the time to research movers thoroughly. We’ve all heard horror stories about movers stealing, losing or recklessly damaging belongings, but with a bit of diligence on your part you can make sure you’re choosing a reputable, licensed company with ample experience. Check reviews, Better Business Bureau ratings and references before committing to hire. It’s also a good idea to purchase appropriate insurance for your belongings, just in case.

2. Don’t wait till the last minute to book your movers. Moving companies do book up, especially during the busy summer months, so don’t leave this decision until the last moment. Start looking for a company early and get on its schedule.

3. Honestly assess your belongings before getting a quote. If you end up bringing more items than discussed with your movers, the best-case scenario is that you get a higher bill — but the worst-case scenario is that there isn’t room on the truck for everything you plan to bring. The reverse can also be problematic: If you pare down your belongings a great deal between the time of your quote and moving day, you may find yourself paying more than you needed to.

If you do require flexibility in truck space for your move, be upfront about it. Some companies allow you to pay by the foot, which means you pay only for the space you end up using. Usually this involves sharing space with another customer, in which case your belongings will be divided with a locked partition inside the truck.

4. Don’t assume that professional packers are also pros at labeling. If you’re planning to hire professional packers, it’s smart to ask about their policy for labeling boxes. If they don’t label (surprisingly common), plan to be present while the packers work (a good idea anyway) and make it your job to label each box as it’s completed.

Packing tip: Label your boxes with your last name as well as the name of the room in your new home where you want the box to end up. When labeling rooms, use language that will make sense to the movers: Instead of “Katie’s room,” you could label a box “Upstairs small bedroom.”

5. Block out close parking in advance to avoid long-carry fees. If your movers can’t park the truck close to your home, you’ll probably get stuck with what’s known as a long-carry fee — and the farther the movers have to walk to bring each item, the longer it will take. To avoid this, do whatever you can to ensure there’s a close place to park the truck at both your old home and new. You may want to notify neighbors in advance, park your cars in the closest spaces to hold them, or put cones and signs in the space in front of your house on the day of the move.

6. Remember to measure openings at your new home. After one harrowing experience attempting to get a giant sofa through a narrow stairway (our movers eventually gave up), I now know the value of measuring doorways and stairwells in advance. If bulky furniture doesn’t fit, you may be forced to leave treasured pieces behind, or — if you simply can’t do without an item — you may need to ask for hoisting services, which aren’t cheap and may not be available right away.

7. Take the time to read the fine print. Before the movers leave at the end of the day, you’ll be asked to sign off on the inventory sheet and bill — and you’ll be exhausted when this happens. It’s easy to breeze through these last steps and just sign whatever papers they thrust in front of you, but it’s important that you take the time to actually read what you’re signing.

Double check that everything that went into the truck has actually arrived. Look over the bill carefully and be sure there are no extra charges. Especially if you were sharing space, belongings can get missed quite easily, so it’s a good idea to take a look inside the truck before it pulls away. And look close: Tiny (but necessary) items like drawer knobs and shelf brackets can easily get overlooked on the floor of a big truck.

8. Just get the big stuff into position; the rest can wait. Think rugs and major (read: heavy) furniture pieces — anything you can’t easily move on your own — are the things that should be put into position by the movers. Ideally, you’ll already be armed with a floor plan of the new space with furniture positions marked out. But if you didn’t get anything that elaborate organized, no worries. Just station yourself in the new place as early as possible before the movers arrive and make some decisions about where things will go.

Then locate the box with your bedding, because you’re going to be ready for a good night’s sleep!

Tell us: Have you moved recently? Share your tips in the Comments.

Painting & Staining: The Quick Guide to Renewing Your Wood Fence

Besides providing security, a good fence can also offer pleasant curbside appeal.

By Chelsea McGrath

There’s something about a fresh coat of paint or stain that really helps a fence pop! Keeping a fence painted or stained also helps maintain the condition of the fence so you can enjoy it for years to come. Besides providing security, a good fence can also offer pleasant curbside appeal.

On the other hand, a worn, damaged fence can be an eyesore. And then there’s the dread of having to replace a part or even the entire fence because of on-going wear and tear, which could be costly. Fortunately, a bit of easy maintenance can go a long way toward keeping your fence in good shape.

The simplest way to maintain a wood fence is with paint or stain.  Covering your fence with a protective coating helps in a number of ways including:

  • Preventing sun and other weather damage
  • Keeping the posts from excessive drying or cracking
  • Keeping the wood from being damaged by mold and mildew
  • Helping to lengthen the lifespan of the wood

Getting Ready for the Project:

As you prepare to embark on your fence restoration project, you might want to begin by taking a walk around your fence-line. Ask yourself the following questions as you inspect your fence. The answers to these questions will dictate your next steps, and help you to craft your shopping list.

  • What’s the square footage of the fence?
  • Are you are going to be painting/staining one or both sides?
  • Are there some severely damaged post slats that might need to be replaced before beginning the painting or staining?
  • What materials will you need to purchase prior to beginning?
    • brushes appropriate for the type of cover you are applying
    • paint trays and paint cups
    • gallons of exterior paint and primer – the amount needed dependent on size of fence
      • if using stain, consider purchasing enough gallons to apply at least two coats
    • scrapers
    • stir sticks
    • tarps
    • sandpaper to smooth out rough spots in the wood
    • screws and screwdriver to fasten loose or replace missing screws

The more prepared you are at the start of the project of painting a fence, the smoother the task should go!

Paint or Stain

Deciding on whether staining or painting a fence is better, the answer is basically up to you.  Both have advantages.

Paint

Paint offers you the flexibility to match colors for aesthetic appeal. For instance, if you want the fence to match exterior building colors or enhance the landscaping, using paint may be more effective for this purpose.

Paint covers the wood rather than being absorbed into it like stain.  There are two types of paints to use on a wood fence: semi-transparent and solid.  Semi-transparent offers a painted cover with the wood grain showing through.  With a solid paint, the wood grain is covered by the smooth color finish.

For previously painted fences, there is often a bit more work required to get a good finish on the wood.

The best way to maintain it is by the following steps:

  1. You should scrape the old, peeling paint first. This is the biggest difference in painting versus staining, but it’s an important step. Scraping helps to keep the new paint layer laying smooth and adhering better to the wood surface.
  2. Wash the fence off with water to clean out the dirt, remove loose old paint chips, and provide a clean work surface.
  3. Cover any proximate surfaces you don’t want to have accidentally painted!
  4. When painting a fence, be sure to prepare the surface with a paint primer. A few considerations to keep in mind with regard to primers are to:
  • Be sure the primer will work with the paint you are going to use on the top-coat for the fence. Not all primers work with all paint types. So once you choose the paint, check that the primer is compatible with it.
  • Check that the primer provides protection for what you may need, such as mold
  • Be sure to apply the primer as directed and allow it to dry completely before starting the top-coat layer. This will insure a more even finish, avoid moisture pockets, and help with the effectiveness of the primer coat.
  1. Apply the paint top-coat. Consider painting a fence with a brush rather than sprayer for a smoother, more complete application.

Stain

If you are considering staining the wood fence instead, the process is a little simpler. For instance, you won’t need to scrape off the old stain or apply a primer.  If you purchase a stain with primer and/or water-proofer in it, that step can be removed from the process completely.

Stain is nice for providing a natural look with the grains of the wood exposed. The most important point to keep in mind with stain is to apply it in the direction of the grain.

If you are using colored stain, be sure to have it mixed well before applying. Also, as stain absorbs into the wood rather than covers it, you might want to do more than one coat for stronger protection.

Don’t Want to Deal with Painting a Fence?

If staining or painting a fence isn’t a task you have time for, consider replacing your wood fence with a fence made of another type of material.  There are many maintenance-free alternatives that don’t require painting or staining including metal, vinyl, aluminum, and composite fencing.

These options may be more expensive than a traditional wood fence though might last longer and require less time to maintain over the years.  However, putting these types of fences up could require a bit more work up font. For instance, most metal and vinyl pieces come in panels which could be heavy or awkward to install alone.  If you have an uneven or hilly property, installation might require a professional for the best result.

Resources:

http://www.hgtv.com/design/outdoor-design/landscaping-and-hardscaping/fences-and-walls/fence-revival-a-guide-to-painting-and-staining

http://www.paintquality.com/en/advice-and-tips/faq/exterior/difference-between-paint-and-stain

https://www.familyhandyman.com/garden-structures/fences/maintenance-free-fencing/view-all

Add Bathroom Technology for a Smart Remodel

Like it or not, technology is changing the way we see and hear things every day. These days, when considering a remodel of any room in the house, homeowners are integrating new technology into their plans, including bathroom technology.

Feb 24, 2017

Like it or not, technology is changing the way we see and hear things every day. And a remodel of any room in the house should incorporate some use of smart home technology. But, even in the bathroom, you say? Yes, bathroom technology is a thing and an array of products are available to make this room a tech showcase.

Bathroom Luxury

If you are considering remodeling your bathroom, there are many options to think about and possibly include in your plans. Bathroom technology can give you state-of-the-art, spa-like luxury in your own home. There are smart toilets that clean themselves, bathtubs with lighting like a swimming pool, and high-tech lighting for showers. For instance, a smart home system with different colored light bulbs for atmosphere can be controlled by an app, or you can install hands-free faucets with automatic soap dispensers. And you never have to miss your favorite program to take a bath or shower because the new flat screen TV you installed is visible from all angles of the bathroom. Your new showerhead can even incorporate smart home technology, with a wireless speaker that can easily be removed for charging. These smart devices and other bathroom technology products are available at Best Buy and at Lowes in Redding — and best of all they are easy to install.

Convenience and Comfort

Bathroom technology can also make you really comfortable — light therapy and heated toilet seats are options that spring to mind. Of course heated towel racks have been around for a long time as have heated floors, but the smart bathroom floor of the near future will sound an alarm if someone falls. Because your phone is always with you, docking drawers with charging stations are convenient for keeping your smartphone or other device always charged and ready to go when you are. The drawers can also be equipped with electrical outlets for hair dryers, electric toothbrushes, and the like.

You may be thinking that with technology changing so rapidly, won’t your remodel be out dated practically before you finish? Actually, you can replace most of these items without need for a complete re-do. Replacing a toilet, for instance, is really low cost. Lighting can also be changed with little effort or expense.

Ordinary people are recognizing that they need to get more integrated with their electronics. In the case of the bathroom, It is literally opening doors for those people while enabling them to feel the luxury of their own 10-star spa. Don’t mistakenly think of these features as simply luxury items. The future buyer of your home will most likely view smart technology products as essential, and any house without them might appear outdated. You don’t need to do all these upgrades at once, but if you are remodeling, think to the future.

Image Source: StockSnap.io

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.

 

Which of These Patio Umbrellas is Right For Your Home?

Spruce up your patio with one of these stylish umbrellas.

By Abbey DeHart

What if someone could drive by your house every day and have a look inside at how you decorated, what was hung on the walls, what colors you used inside your bedrooms, as well as how neat and tidy you kept things? It would certainly make you adjust the way you decorate and clean, right?

But one aspect of your home you may forget about is the patio. Your patio space is a direct reflection of your style, and neighbors and friends can see it without even entering your home—yet it’s all too often overlooked! It can be difficult to make choices regarding your patio style or simply to find the money or desire to spruce it up the way you’d hoped, but a few small updates can really make a difference.

A drab outdoor space can quickly be transformed with the right patio umbrella and accessories. Maybe you don’t love your patio furniture, but don’t have the budget to replace it? Fear not! An affordable umbrella in a bright color or bold pattern can easily update your space and make it more warm and inviting.

Let’s consider some unique opportunities for ways to update your outdoor spaces with patio umbrella styles that are outside the norm.

The Standard Umbrella

The standard patio umbrella comes as a solid color, usually a muted neutral or a bold bright color. These patio umbrellas are the what most people gravitate to because they are safe and add class and comfort to your space in a matter of minutes. If you like the look but want to mix things up, start by adding accessories.

For example, consider hanging decorative string lights inside of your umbrella for that “wow” factor during a warm summer evening when cooking out.

Another fun way to change up the traditional umbrella is to select one with a bold pattern and mix and match the umbrella patterns with coordinating patterns on the patio cushions or pillows. This is a fun way to embolden your space without spending too much money.

The Half Umbrella

Have a smaller space? Consider a half umbrella over a couple of lounge chairs. This small umbrella has a cool, casual vibe and is particularly unexpected in an urban setting. It’s a fun option that gives even the smallest patio the dose of personality it deserves and makes your small backyard or balcony feel more like a retreat.

The Cantilever Umbrella

The cantilever umbrella is a freestanding umbrella that looks great over a set of lounge chairs. This umbrella can shift directions to create more shade and gives an impressive spa-like look for people who want to make a true statement on their patio or deck. This umbrella is best for larger spaces and larger budgets, but it’s worth the money! Pair it with some umbrella lights and you have the perfect outdoor party space.

Patio Decorating Tips

Truth be told, a few quick fixes can turn even the most boring, outdated patio or deck into a fun, vibrant entertainment space. If you have basic patio furniture and a limited budget, focus on these key tips to bring your space to life:

  1. Choose accessories that speak to your taste. Whether they’re simple or bold, patterned or plain, bright or muted is up to you!
  2. Add lights. String lights, solar-powered lanterns, torches and even fire pits to add some fun and whimsy to your space at night. There are so many fun options for lighting that create a calming ambiance your guests won’t forget.
  3. Make it comfortable. Make sure that your patio cushions are soft and clean, and don’t be afraid to mix patterns and step outside your box.
  4. Incorporate greenery. If you have extra room in your budget, pick up some oversized pots and pretty plants and set them around the sides of your deck or on the stairs. Mix the plants with options from a greenhouse or nursery, and add some spiked plants or longer vines. Pretty plants always bring coziness to a space.

And most of all? Embrace your own unique style! This is the space that shows off your style to everyone who can see it, so make it the haven you want it to be.

Abbey DeHart is passionate about decor, crafts and DIYS and writes for several publications, including  Plaid Crafts, Angie’s List, HomeRight and The Home Depot. She provides tips on improving your patio area with different outdoor furniture and cool patio umbrella ideas and options.