All the Ways Your Front Entrance Can Sell Your Home

When getting your home ready to sell, what areas should you focus your time and budget on?

If only selling your home was as simple as snapping your fingers. We’d love that, and we’re sure you would too.

Unfortunately, reality is rarely that kind. Instead, there are a thousand little details that go into selling your home from hiring a real estate agent to home staging and curb appeal enhancements. It’s every piece together that brings in the buyer.

But if you’ve focused mostly on finding the right realtor and too little on curb appeal, you could be putting yourself at a disadvantage. Never underestimate the power of a great first impression, which starts with the outside of your home.

Staging a House to Sell

When getting your home ready to sell, the first area you want to focus on is the exterior. This is what a buyer will see first before they ever step a foot inside, so it needs to look polished and attractive. The question then is, “What should I concentrate my budget and time on?”

  1. Create a Gorgeous Front Entrance

Homeowners who update their entry door can recoup a significant amount of the cost of installation. In particular, you should consider installing a steel entry door.

In addition, you want to clean your entire entrance. Remove any clutter around your entrance including furniture, pots, and entry mats and thoroughly clean everything, making sure to repaint or touch up as needed. You’ll also want to polish any metal knobs or fixtures. A great entrance can ensure that every other part of your home is more inviting as well.

  1. Repaint the Exterior

Repainting the outside of your home is a big job, but it’s worth the results. A new coat of paint can seriously improve your home’s curb appeal. Just make sure you do your research before you choose your exterior house colors. Not only do you want to choose colors that appeal to you, but colors that fit your neighborhood.

We recommend choosing bright and welcoming colors for your home, especially when it comes to your front door. A bright red or blue door really pops. As for the overall color, we recommend choosing a light gray/blue color. A great color can help you sell your home faster and for more money.

  1. Update Your Landscaping

Poor landscaping can distract from an otherwise beautiful house that has exceptional home staging. That’s because no matter how great your furniture and walls look inside, if they can’t get past the lack of imagination and poor curb appeal outside, it won’t matter.

Make sure your shrubs are trimmed and not blocking windows and opportunities for natural light. Add color with freshly potted flowers and plants. Manicure your lawn and ensure there are no weed gardens and all mulch is in place.

A stunning landscape can make a buyer automatically assume and be ready for an equally stunning house.

  1. Ditch the Clutter

When prepping the interior of your home, you don’t leave junk everywhere. The same should be said for the outside. Streamline your exterior by removing evidence of a busy family life such as garden tools, bikes, toys, and trash cans. You’ll also want to remove any extraneous furniture. Keep everything parsed down to the minimum.

  1. Make it Livable

Finally, you’ll want to make a great outdoor living space, if you can. Outdoor rooms are attractive to potential homebuyers. Consider adding a seating area to your deck or creating a barbeque area with a fire pit. A few small items can expand your home’s living space outside, adding to its attraction for buyers.

The reality is that buyers have very little imagination. If your home looks too much like you, then they won’t be able to see themselves in your home. The goal is to make your home a blank slate that they can see fitting into seamlessly.

By focusing on improving your curb appeal, you focus on making a great first impression that will last throughout the buying process. After all, getting buyers in the door is the hardest step. Once they’re inside, your real estate agent and you can take care of the rest.

How to Build a Reasonably Priced Shed for Your Backyard

By following these five tips, you can kick the clutter and keep your wallet fat.

By Chelsea McGrath

Is your garage overflowing with gear and gadgets? Whether your clutter is for business or pleasure, a backyard shed is the perfect storage solution.

But, extra space comes with a price tag. Prefab sheds can put you back thousands of dollars, and a bad DIY can cost you your weekends and your pride.

What if you could build a quality shed without breaking the bank? By following these five tips, you can kick the clutter and keep your wallet fat.

#1 Cut the Frill = Cut the Costs

The average custom-made shed costs anywhere from $2,109 to $3,545 depending on the materials you use and whether you do it yourself or call in a local pro.

So, how can you keep your shed budget under a grand? Cut out all the frills. Sheds become expensive when homeowners choose costly features, like

  • Electricity
  • Shelves and built-in storage
  • Decorative trim
  • Loft
  • Ramp
  • Workbench
  • Large square footage

Skilled laborers, like electricians and carpenters, can charge up to $100/hour to add these custom features, not including the cost of added material.

Cheap sheds are basic sheds—four walls, a roof, and a foundation. Consider which features you need and which you can live without.

#2 Choose Cost-Effective Materials

You want your materials to be sturdy yet practical. Luckily, sheds can be built with a variety of materials, which we ranked from most to least expensive.

Expensive: Vinyl

Vinyl is a favorite among homeowners due to its strength and durability. Vinyl sheds are known to resist rot, harsh weather, insects, and dents.

It’s a great, maintenance-free option – especially for homeowners that live in areas that experience heavy snowfall and bad storms.

Of course, that durability comes at a price. At the cheapest, vinyl will run around $800 in material cost, and up to $5,000 at its most expensive.

 Can be Costly: Wood

Wood is beautiful and popular and very customizable. But, it can also be expensive. A lot of labor and resources are put into making those beautiful wood slabs, driving up the cost.

Expect to spend anywhere from $600 to $3,000 on materials for a wood shed.

Cheapest: Metal

Metal is a cost-cutting favorite – it is low maintenance, resists rot, insects, and decay, and can last upwards of 25 years. Depending on the size of your shed, metal material can cost as little as $300.

Your metal shed won’t be as resistant to heavy snow and high wind, but it’s the ultimate budget saver in a temperate climate.

#3 Shop Around

You know what they say about one man’s trash being another man’s treasure? There’s always someone out there with too much of something who wants to reclaim their space. Which means you can snag up materials for ultra-cheap – sometimes even free!

Lumber mills are overflowing with waste. Politely ask the yard manager if they have any scrap wood you can take off their hands.

Or, search online. A quick search for free or discount lumber revealed dozens of results for wood people wanted to get rid of.

Of course, this means you have to drive (sometimes long distances) and deal with strangers. But, with some courtesy and research, you might be able to snag all or most of the materials for your shed at an ultra-cheap price!

#4 Rent Power Tools Instead of Buying Them

Unless you are a professional handyman, you probably don’t have a huge supply of power tools in your garage.

Contractors estimate you’ll need the following tools to build a shed, though you may need others depending on your materials and construction plans:

  • Safety glasses / hearing protection
  • Hammer
  • Power drill (Cordless) & drill bits
  • Tape measure
  • Nail gun
  • Circular saw
  • Speed square
  • Stepladder
  • Sawhorses

While building a shed is a fun excuse to go tool shopping, it doesn’t make sense to drop a huge amount of dough for a tool you’ll only use twice a year. Buying all these tools could costs hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Not to mention, finding a place to store rarely used tools may be why you’re building a shed in the first place.

Thankfully, many local hardware stores allow you to rent tools for a fraction of the cost.

Of course, if you hire a contractor, they’ll already have all the tools, so you save costs.

#5 Check Permits to Avoid Hidden Costs

Check local building codes before building a shed in your backyard. Even though you’re building on your property, the city can fine you or force you to dismantle your shed if you don’t have the right permit.

Make sure you do your research to avoid unexpected fines and the cost of having to rebuild an improperly placed shed.

#6 When in Doubt, Go With a Pro

DIY projects often seem like the most cost-effective practice. But, consider the cost of materials, the amount of time you’ll have to commit, and your skill level.

Some parts of your project may be out of your skill range aHomd require hiring a carpenter, contractor, or electrician.

Better to hire a professional than spend money and time fixing mistakes and making repairs.

Whether you want to relax by the pool or you have a list of DIY projects, an organized space makes it easier to take full advantage of your summer.

How to Personalize Your Outdoor Space

Transform your patio, deck or outdoor room into a personal oasis that reflects your special sense of style.

Guest post by Sara Marie Hall

As the temperatures rise and the days get longer, it’s time to create an outdoor space that’s a welcoming extension of your home. The inside of your home is a reflection of your style, and your outdoor space should be no different. Struggling with how to bring your design taste outdoors in a way that’s unique to you? With a few special touches, you can transform any patio, deck or outdoor room into a personal oasis that reflects your special sense of style.

Choose Furniture Based on Size and Lifestyle

To get started, consider the size and function of your space to select the right furniture. Whether you have a huge backyard complete with a large patio for alfresco dining or a small balcony in a city apartment, make your outdoor space completely your own by focusing on how you can enjoy it most within the space limitations. For example, your balcony space may not support a dining area, but it might comfortably fit two lounge chairs and a bistro table, perfect for outdoor dining.

If you’re looking to create a cozy, personal getaway to curl up with a book, choose a few chairs, a side table and a chaise lounge. If you love to host outdoor parties during the spring and summer months, consider adding a full outdoor dining set, multiple lounge chairs and even an outdoor bar cart. If you want a place for a large family to gather under the stars, choose a sectional. Everyone’s outdoor style is different, so think about how you envision using the space. Start with what you need, and know that you can always add pieces as your needs change.

Select Accents that Speak to Your Decorating Style

Once you’ve chosen outdoor furniture and decided how you’ll use your space, you get to have some fun decorating! This is where you can truly let your personality come through and give your outdoor space the fun touches that will make it shine. Here are the elements to consider:

Colors. Start by choosing your favorite color scheme. If you like bright colors, go for a bold combination of yellows, blues or reds. Navy is a great option for a poolside retreat. For a contemporary look, blues, whites and greys all blend well. Love a minimalist style? You can’t go wrong with classic black and white.

Textures. With your color palette in mind, search for outdoor rugs and textiles that create a cohesive look. Then, add finishing touches such as copper lanterns, twinkling string lights, stylish planters or metal wall art. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something you really love and that feels personal.

Add One-of-a-Kind Elements

Of course, no space is complete without a few special touches. You probably don’t want to subject family photos or treasured souvenirs to the elements, but you can still personalize your outdoor space with decor pieces that hold special meaning. Choose touches like a hand-painted birdhouse or homemade musical wind chime. If you have a green thumb, plant your favorite flowers in planters for a sweet reminder every time you see them. However you choose to decorate, you’ll know yours is a one-of-a-kind outdoor space.

 

Sara Marie Hall creates original online content about outdoor furniture for Crate and Barrel, where you can find options for spaces of any size.  She enjoys spending time outdoors and loves adding new personal touches to her outdoor space each summer.

How to Keep Your Pets Stress-Free During a Move

Keep your pets stress-free during your move.

Guest post by Laura McHolm

If you are moving this summer you probably already feel the stresses of moving, but have you thought about what your four-legged family member may be feeling? Dogs and pets do feel the stresses of a move and often even more stress than their human companions are feeling.
Imagine: you can’t read, understand all of the chatter around you and all you see is the chaos of boxes. Your home is in an upheaval plus there are stressed out humans everywhere. Sounds even more stressful, right? That’s why it is vital to take special care of your furry friends during the moving process.

Moving doesn’t have to be a dog-gone cat-astrophy. The good news is that with a paw-ful of wise tips you can ease the trauma on your pets. Here are ten vet approved tricks that have been to keep Fido and Fluffy cared for during the moving process:

1. Before Moving Day

Become familiar with pet rules and regulations. Landlords and homeowners’ associations may have specific pet rules. Become familiar with your new area’s leash laws, pet ordinances and/or pet licensing requirements. Your pet may need additional vaccinations, medications or certain certificates depending on where you are moving. A call to the local animal control facility should answer your questions.

2. Talk to Your Current Vet

Your veterinarian is a great resource. If you have an animal that dislikes traveling, your vet can suggest behavior modification techniques or medication that can make traveling less stressful for your pet. When talking to your vet, also discuss getting Fluffy or Fido micro-chipped, a vital step in reuniting pets with their owners. Make sure the pet’s microchips information is tied to a cell phone number that will move with you.

3. Find a New Vet

Find a new vet in your new area before moving day. Your current vet may be able to make recommendations for colleagues he or she knows in your new area. When finding a new vet, it is recommended to set up an appointment as soon as you move in order to get established. It always important to make sure you are comfortable with their practice before they are needed in an emergency.

4. Get Medical Records

Before you leave your old home, make sure you get a copy of all of your pet’s medical records to give to your new vet and be sure to find the closest emergency animal hospital and keep that phone number handy.

5. Update Your Address

Don’t forget to have new identification tags with your new address and phone number made for your pet’s collar, and if your pet has an identification microchip, remember to update your contact information in the database.

6. Keep Things Normal

Instead of pulling an all-nighter to pack, try to pack over a long period of time so that your pet thinks everything is normal. This will keep their stress level down. If you are moving with cats, it can help to bring out their carriers out a few a weeks before the move. Put their favorite treats and toys inside their carriers so they can get used to it before the big moving day. Don’t pack the food away! Keep your pet’s food, water, bowls, medication and any other important supplies (like that favorite squeaky toy) off the moving truck and with you.

7. Moving Day

During the actual moving day, where boxes and furniture are being moved, pets should be removed. Find a friend who wouldn’t mind pet sitting or find a place away from all the noise of moving such as a doggy day care or cat care center. If you can visit them during a spare moment, it can help reassure the pets that nothing is going on. Keeping pets locked away in a room during moving day can make them anxious from all the noise and new people that might be in your home. If you must keep them locked away, find a quiet room, water bowl and put a HUGE sign on the door.

8. Travel with Your Pet

Unless your move is long distance or international, your pet will likely be traveling by car with you nearby. By driving them yourself you can care for them and give them a sense of familiarity as they move. To prepare your pet for this trip, drive for short distances with your pet to prepare them before the final move. Also, remember to plan ahead for any special carriers your pets may need for transportation. There are even special seat belts for large dogs.

9. Air Travel

If you are moving your pet by air or internationally, check all rules and regulations far ahead of the day you plan to leave and remember to keep your pet’s special documentation at hand.

10. After Moving Day

Don’t let pets roam around the neighborhood until they are acclimated. Take them out on a leash to explore their new territory and show them how to get home. If you let them out in a new place right away, they might get lost or run away due to stress. Make sure your pet’s new identification tags are secured to their collar.

Now snuggle up with your furry friend and enjoy the new home!

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. www.northstarmoving.com

Modest Home Updates to “Wow” Buyers & Boost Value

When selling a home in today’s market, it’s important to consider all the options to help make it stand out and appear move-in ready to selective buyers.

Guest post by Patti Stern

When selling a home in today’s market, it’s important to consider all the options to help make it stand out and appear move-in ready to selective buyers. Which improvements require the least time, effort and expense but will significantly boost your home’s perceived value? To help prioritize, we put together the following list of modest staging solutions/upgrades that will get your property noticed and cost less than the first price reduction that buyers would expect for dated kitchens and baths.

Dining room staged by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

Freshen Walls With Neutral Color

Our go-to instant fix to brighten and hide dated and damaged walls is neutral paint. It’s amazing to see how a dark red or purple room can be completely transformed with a coat of soft “greige” (a combination of taupe and grey) paint that increases the perceived size of the space, doesn’t distract from the room’s features and acts as the perfect backdrop to modern furnishings and décor.

Kitchen staged by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

Re-paint Kitchen and Bath Cabinets

To instantly boost a tired kitchen or bath without a costly investment, start by repainting dated and dark cabinets and vanities with bright white paint. Complete the look by pairing with modern hardware – handles, drawer pulls or knobs for added style.

Bathroom staged by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

Replace Kitchen & Bath Lighting and Countertops

Lighting is an important design element that can affect the mood of a room more than any other accessory. Adding updated lighting in modern designs and on-trend mixed finishes such as brushed nickel, chrome or soft gold tones will add warmth and sophisticated style. It can also be used to draw attention to certain features in the room such as a beautiful new marble or quartz countertop (as shown in photo above), appliances or high ceilings.

Highlight Key Features

For large windows with attractive molding, remove heavier window treatments or simply frame with floor to ceiling neutral drapes. Remove worn carpeting and expose and polish hardwood flooring. Re-stain stairway steps and railings by painting risers or updating spindles. Enhance a beautiful stone fireplace with molding, mantle or screen.

Living room staged by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

Finishing Touches

Once you’ve invested in cosmetic fixes, be sure to remove dated furniture and accents and replace with more modern style that complement the room (as pictured in living room above). Minimal wall art, vignettes and throw pillows with subtle pops of color and pattern will add depth and warmth so that buyers can emotionally connect and envision living in the home.

Exterior & Curb Appeal

It’s just as important to update the outside of your home to welcome buyers inside. Remodeling magazine’s “Cost vs. Value” report continues to list replacing entry and garage doors, siding and windows as upgrades that provide the greatest return on investment. However, sprucing up the landscaping, making necessary basic repairs, a fresh coat of paint for the front door and some seasonal potted flowers will go a long way to make a great first impression.

For more examples of interior decorating and home staging, visit www.pjstagingdecorating.com.

 

Patti Stern, principal, interior decorator and professional stager of PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating, has been decorating and staging homes since 2005. She and her team provide turnkey, full service home staging and interior decorating to clients across Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts. She also developed an award-winning staging program for luxury homebuilder, Toll Brothers. Her company is a 4-time Houzz Award winner,  2015- 2018.

Patti has been featured in Connecticut Magazine, the Hartford Courant, Danbury News-Times and on NBC Connecticut and FOX TV.  She is a regular contributor to the National Association of Realtor’s Blog, “Style, Staged and Sold.”

 For more information, contact Patti Stern at 203-640-3762 or patti@pjstagingdecorating

The 5 Best Self-Learning Smart Home Devices

Self-learning home devices learn your habits and adjust themselves accordingly for an unprecedented level of convenience.

Guest post by Jon Snyder

Picture this: You’ve had an exhausting week — all you want to do is go home and relax. It’s hot outside, but you arrive to a perfectly cooled home. As dusk rolls in, your blinds follow suit, as if they’re chasing the sunset. You make your way to your bedroom and practically crumble into bed. The lights dim as the temperature dips and you drift off into a peaceful sleep.

This might sound like a futuristic dream, but actually, it’s a reality. In today’s world, millions of smart gadgets are available to make your home more intelligent. But these “smart” devices are limited to homeowner’s programming capabilities, which is usually turning on and off at certain times. Genius? Not so much. Self-learning home devices are different. They learn your habits and adjust themselves accordingly for an unprecedented level of convenience.  Here, we’ll take a look at some of the best connected devices and the ways they can observe patterns, interpret data, or use artificial intelligence to help make your life easier.

  1. Self-Learning Thermostats

Keeping your house at an ideal temperate can be pricey. About 50 percent of your energy bill can be attributed to running the heat or air conditioning. A manual thermostat can be programmed to adjust temps at certain times but if you leave for vacation and forget to turn it off, you’re out of luck.

Smart thermostats are a game-changer. They can learn your favorite temp and make sure you’re never too hot or too cold. If you’ve cranked the AC a few days in a row, your thermostat will pick up on this pattern and adjust the temperature settings accordingly. And when you leave for work or a week-long vacation, sensors and GPS will alert your thermostat to automatically save energy (and money).

2.    Self-Learning Blinds

There’s nothing worse than being woken up at the crack of dawn on a weekend to sun beams hitting you square in the face. Or the opposite — you can’t seem to roll out of bed because the room is so dark that it must still be nighttime, right?

Smart blinds can help address both of these issues. The latest intelligent shades connect to your compatible smart-home systems and adjust themselves automatically. Simply program your shades to move your window treatments to your preference. And to take it one step further, some smart blinds can follow the sun to maintain the same level of light as the season’s change, which saves energy and money (without any effort on your part).

3.    Self-Learning Beds

Even your bed can have brainpower. Tech-savvy mattresses covers sync up with your thermostat and bedroom lighting for a full sensory experience. As you begin to snooze, the temperature and lights of your room and bed adjust to your preference. When you doze off completely, they adjust again or turn off completely. These self-learning mattress protectors can also track your sleep patterns and help you achieve your best night’s rest.

4.    Self-Learning Surveillance

Being able to keep an eye on your home while you are away is the ultimate peace of mind, as one in 36 homes are burglarized each year. Smart surveillance systems employ innovative learning technology like facial recognition to keep your home safe from unfamiliar faces. Some cameras also have self-learning video analytics, which automatically adjust their settings based on the scene conditions to give you the clearest view possible. Plus, they connect to Wi-Fi for 24/7 footage, pinged right to your smartphone from anywhere with internet.

5.    Self-Learning Spectrometer  

This might not seem like an everyday item, but smart food spectrometers are making waves in the kitchen. This tool interprets algorithms to understand food freshness, sweetness and quality. In real-time, it can determine if your meat has gone bad, if your whiskey is the real deal or if that farmer’s market fruit is fresh.

Bonus: Self-Learning Home Controller

As seen at the 2018 Consumer Electronic Show, a self-learning home controller takes your smart home gadgets and make them smarter. It uses artificial intelligence to understand your home patterns, picking up data from your smart appliances, lighting and electricity. It automates mundane tasks without scheduling or hassle to better manage your home and save money. Although it’s not available for purchase yet, this home controller could help smart gadgets reach their full potential.

 

As smart home gadgets continue to get smarter and learn on their own, it’ll be fascinating to see how they will predict our behavior to save energy, slash bills, and most importantly, make our lives better.

Perhaps one day, there will be no snoozing through alarms (your phone will know to wake you up), no burnt banana bread (your oven will know it’s fully baked), and no parties after midnight (your lights know bedtime is at 10PM). But hopefully these self-learning devices will learn that sometimes humans like to break the rules.

 

Jon Snyder is a Product Manager at Esurance, where he oversees countrywide design of property insurance products. Jon has over 25 years of experience in the insurance industry and he writes about a variety of topics, including smart home technology, homeowners insurance and the intersection of the two. You can learn more about Esurance’s homeowners insurance options by visiting their website

What is a Property Survey and Why You Should Get One Before Buying a House

There are several benefits to getting a property survey before buying your home. Find out all the information you need to know, and how you can get a property survey done today!

When buying a home, the last thing you want is a surprise. Most people worry about leaky roofs or rusty boilers. But there may be property issues that can come to light and cost you a lot of money if you’re not careful.

One way to avoid getting in over your head is to get a property survey before you buy. Also known as a house or land survey, it’s the perfect way to ensure you know exactly what you’re getting with the land, so there are no surprises.

How exactly do you go about getting a property survey if the seller doesn’t have one to share?  You can start by looking for one from the district or municipal office where the property is located in or possibly even the seller’s lending institution.  If you can’t find one, then you should take the following information into consideration:

Property Survey Basics

A property survey begins with defining the boundaries of a plot of land. This clarifies the size of the property, and where the land begins and ends.

An updated house survey is also important for legal reasons. This is because municipal laws are not fixed—they change from time to time. For example, the property might have a shed or a fence that was well within the boundaries years ago but after undated municipal border it now encroaches onto a neighbor’s property or too close to the public street. A new survey will give you the confidence that the property complies with current local regulations.

It can also highlight any potential discrepancies or boundary infringements. This can help you avoid any misunderstandings in the future with neighbors or the city.

What do Surveyors Look for in a House Survey?

You might have seen surveyors poking around your neighborhood taking measurements. Most of the time, they have been hired by home buyers or sellers to take surveys, or they could be performing a survey for a property dispute (something a survey can help you avoid!)

When you hire a surveyor here’s what they typically look for:

  • The legal boundaries of the land
  • The locations of any buildings (sheds, storage) on the land
  • Any easements and entrances to the property
  • The topography of the plot, including both natural features such as trees or a river and manmade features including swimming pools or fences

An updated survey will be compared to any previous survey from the last time the house was sold. This way any discrepancies that might appear are known to all parties before the closing.

How Much Does a House Survey Cost?

When getting a property surveyed it’s important to hire a professional. This is one instance where DIY surveys or estimates won’t help. In fact, it can actually hurt you as they are not accepted as legal documentation.

So hiring a surveyor may be worth it to ensure you have records that hold up in court, if it ever comes to that. House survey costs can vary from state to state, but they typically run anywhere from $250 to $1,000.

Check your local state laws regarding costs. In some states, the seller is responsible for the survey or the fees can be negotiated between both parties.

Should I Have a Home Buyers Survey?

The last thing any homeowner wants is to plan a new project only to find out all that land they thought they had wasn’t theirs after all. You can imagine the headaches that scenario can cause!

Nevertheless, this sort of thing can sometimes happen. One way to avoid these issues is to set up a survey. A buyer’s survey can save you from a lot of potential hassles (and even more costs) down the road.

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 May Long Weekend barbeques. 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.

Starting Fresh: How to Buy a New Home Construction

Personalization, customization, fewer repairs, and less maintenance are just some of the benefits of buying a newly built home. Find out how you can buy a new home construction today!

What could be more exciting than living in a brand new home? The blank slate can be thrilling: living in a place no one has lived before, a home with fresh paint, untouched carpets, and even fresh grass that no one has trodden!

While most of the homes bought and sold are preexisting, more and more buyers are interested in new house construction. There’s no doubt moving into a newly built home is exciting. But this sort of transaction comes with its own set of challenges as well.

Find out all the basics of what you’ll need to know to get started.

Understanding the Types of New Construction Homes for Sale

There are a few different types of new construction homes you might consider. They fall into three main categories:

  1. A home that is pre-built according to design templates
  2. A semi-custom home: the bulk of the house is built and you have the option to pick a few design elements, finishes, and extra upgrades
  3. A fully custom home: you have input on the design from the ground up

If you’d love to be involved in every stage of the building process, an entirely custom home could be a great fit. On the other hand, if you’re ready to move right in and don’t want to bother with all the design details, buying a pre-built home is likely the better option.

Select the Specs of Your Home

Now that you know what kind of new house construction you’re interested in, you want to determine some details about the home of your dreams. Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Location: Is it as close to (or far from) the city as you prefer? Will you have a reasonable commute (if that’s a must-have)?
  2. Budget: Will this home fit into your budget—especially if you have the option for upgrades?
  3. Size: Does the home have the size and number of rooms you need?
  4. Neighborhood: Is it still under construction? Do you have ample lawn space or privacy? Are there specific desired amenities such as a swimming pool?

Many new construction homes for sale are in subdivisions. It’s a good idea to drive down and investigate them on your own and see if it has what you’re looking for.

Also, you want to be sure to find out as much as you can about the builder. Start by looking online: search for any reviews, complaints, or lawsuits. This simple step can help you avoid a lot of potential headaches down the road!

Find a Real Estate Agent

Most builders have an agent, but remember that this agent is there with a goal to sell the property. Before you speak with any builders, hire your own real estate agent to make sure your needs and desires are the number one priority.

Another advantage of taking this path is that your agent may have other insights that the builder would not. An agent will know all the unique processes and challenges of how to buy a new construction home better than anyone.

Work with a Lawyer

More often than not, a new construction home will have a more complicated contract than your typical house sale. There are all sorts of details you’ll need to know such information on warranties on the home itself and appliances within the home.

With the amount of paperwork involved in buying a new home, it’s always a good idea to run all the paperwork past a lawyer familiar with real estate language.

Don’t Forget the Home Inspection

Just because the home is a new build doesn’t mean you should skip getting a home inspection. Some new homes can have their own set of problems to watch out for. Insist on getting a comprehensive home inspection before you even begin the price negotiation.

Talk to your real estate agent today to start ironing out all the details of buying a new home.

8 Clever Ways to Store Books Around the House

Here are 8 clever ways to store books around the house. Which one is your favorite?

Guest post by  Michelle Lee, Houzz

Although reading books can seem like a long lost art in the days of digital devices, there still remains something special about the smell of a brand new novel and being able to flip through physical pages. For dedicated bookworms with cherished collections, it can be a struggle to store and display your favorites without a dedicated home library. Follow along for eight ways to stylishly integrate books into any room in the house.

In the Kitchen

This is not just limited to cookbooks. Any books you’ll want to read over a good meal or while waiting for the oven to preheat are just as applicable. There are many ways to add a homey vibe to your space by installing open shelves beneath a kitchen island or along a blank unused wall. Just make sure to keep the books away from appliances so the pages and binding don’t get damaged by heat.

 

In the Bedroom

As we venture further into fall and winter, many bookworms will want to curl up under the covers with a hot cup of cocoa and a new novel. Keep your reading list at arm’s reach by storing books along a windowsill or stack them up in a corner of the room. For a more permanent solution, buy a new headboard or nightstand with built-in storage.

 

In an Unused Fireplace

Fireplaces make a lovely focal point in many living rooms, but can be a hassle to maintain and use. You can breathe new life into this space by cleaning it thoroughly and stacking books in the empty space. The different bindings will create visual interest and bring color to the previously black abyss.

 

In the Bathroom

One of life’s luxuries is being able to read a good book in a relaxing bubble bath at the end of a long day. This can be done by building recessed shelves above a freestanding tub. For renters, there are plenty of budget-friendly over-the-toilet storage cabinets that accomplish the same purpose. Be sure to take proper precautions against warped pages caused by moisture with an exhaust fan.

 

Above a Desk

In many home offices, the space above the desk goes largely unused. Simply look up for more space. You can create a home for a decently sized collection of books by installing open shelves above your computer all the way up to the ceiling. The transitional Philadelphia space shown here illustrates the idea nicely.

 

Under the Stairs

If you still haven’t found the right fit for what to put in that little nook under the stairs, look no further. Bring in an asymmetrical or diagonal bookcase to house your collection or carve out an alcove to recreate a Harry Potter vibe. Bring in a comfy chair or cushions and you’ve got the perfect personal hideout space for the season.

 

Around an Entryway

This one requires the expertise of a skilled woodworker or architect. Frame any doorway in your home with a gorgeous collection of novels that surround it left, right and above. Add a rolling library ladder to reach the highest shelves and bring rustic charm and character to any space, as seen here.

 

In Your Front Yard

If you’re really unable to squeeze any more space out of your home to store books inside, consider moving outdoors for a unique solution. The Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that seeks to bring communities together and share books with one another through a house-shaped box in their front yard. Fill it with a few of your favorites that you’re willing to share and encourage your neighbors to take one, leave one of their own or both. Although this is not quite a storage solution, it’s a great way to connect with your community and discover new reading material.