Pare Down and Declutter By Knowing How Much Stuff Is Enough

Play the numbers game to streamline your belongings, for a neater home and a less-stressed you.

Houzz Contributor, Laura Gaskill

So you want to pare down your belongings. But how much, exactly, do you get rid of? And how can you prevent stuff from simply piling up all over again? Part of the solution to a lasting clutter-free existence may lie in numbers. As in, the number of pairs of shoes, towels, place settings and so on that you decide to keep in the house. By deciding how many items in each category of stuff you really need, those numbers become a sort of fail-safe, preventing your home from free-falling into its formerly cluttered state. Check out these ideas on how to get started, then share your own numbers in the Comments.

The “sometimes” dilemma: What to do if you use something but only occasionally? Fancy china and highly specialized cookware come immediately to mind. If you really do love to have these things when the occasion calls for it, and you have storage space for them, by all means keep them. Just be intentional about what and how much you are keeping, and know why. Try to avoid keeping large sets of anything purely out of guilt — if you’ve inherited something you don’t want, see if someone else in the family wants it, sell it or donate it to charity.

More tips on what to do with sentimental pieces

How much to keep? Set a space limit. One way to keep rarely used items in check is to limit the amount of storage space you afford them. Instead of allowing your entertaining arsenal to multiply indefinitely over time, taking over not only cupboards but basement shelves and the attic too, decide on one space to store these items in and stick with it. For instance, keep all china in one nice china hutch — if you acquire more down the road, give away or sell something to free up space.

The Rule of Three: One in the wash, one in the cupboard, one in use. You may have heard this one before, but it bears repeating because it really works. It can be difficult to come up with what seems to be a rather arbitrary number of items to keep, but sticking with one for the shelf, one to use and one to wash keeps things simple. I follow this rule for sheets (per bed) and towels (per person).

What about guests? Unless you are running a boarding house, two sets of sheets for each guest bed and two sets of towels per guest are plenty.

The seasonal exception: Even minimalists may want to keep extra stuff on hand to rotate in depending on the season — and that’s whether or not there are chilly winters.

It can be a nice change of pace to bring out thicker blankets in warmer hues for the winter and light, airy linens in summer. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should double the number of sets you have, if some sets work well year-round. For instance, you could decide to keep one set of sateen sheets for year-round use, two sets of flannels for winter and two cool, crisp sets for summer.

Special case: Clothes. Clothes and shoes may be the most personal (and difficult) category of stuff to put limits on. That said, even those with intense attachments to their wardrobes can find it worthwhile to do a proper inventory.

After figuring out that you actually have 100 pairs of shoes or 20 nearly identical black tops, you may decide to bring that number down … or you may not, but at least you will be informed.

Special case: Kids’ stuff. When a child’s room is overflowing with stuff, it’s hard to focus on any one thing, and pretty soon all of those lovingly chosen toys become just part of the mess. Setting space constraints is a smart way to handle this situation. Dedicate certain shelves, plus perhaps a toy closet (for toys not currently being used in the rotation) for your child’s belongings, and keep it at that. When a bin or shelf begins to overflow, or you notice that stuff is piling up on the floor (because it has nowhere else to go), take that as a cue to give something away.

The everyday stuff: Count it out. Do you know how many basic plates, bowls, cups and wineglasses you own? If you’re not sure, go count them — you may be surprised at just how many pieces of “everyday” tableware you have. Of course it’s nice to have enough of everything that the whole household can eat a meal or two and not worry about getting everything washed and dried, and you’ll want extras on hand for bigger casual dinners with family and friends if you host that sort of thing, but you won’t likely need more than that.

Not everyone wants to stick with one set of white dishes (although for simplicity’s sake, that’s surely an easy way to go). But you can still set a limit at a certain number of sets. If you go over your number, it’s time to start culling.

Special case: Tupperware. What is it about plastic containers that makes them seem to multiply when you’re not looking (but hardly ever with a matching lid)? Start by removing any lids that don’t have mates, then count what you have left. Most of us probably have too many food storage containers — really, how many leftovers are you likely to wrap up at any given time? Three? Four?

Special case: Your passions. Book lovers, athletes, outdoorsy types, musicians, crafters … you know who you are. And more important, you know how easy it is to collect more and more stuff to support your passion.

Being aware of exactly what you already own is a good first step toward reining in your collections — perhaps your yarn stash is in such disarray, you end up buying yarn you already have.

But it’s also a good idea to start paying attention to what you actually use. If you treasure your books, notice which ones you actually pick up from time to time — I realized a while ago that I rarely pick up novels after I’ve read them, so I decided to let go of most books in that category.

Pain-free ways to declutter your library

Just because you have the room to store it doesn’t mean you should. Extra space is deceptive. If you are blessed with large closets and ample storage space, you may be thinking you’re off the hook — but the truth is, everyone can benefit from paring down a little. Having fewer belongings means less time spent cleaning, moving and mending them; less time looking for things; and generally less to worry about. And if you ever need to downsize in the future, the process will be far less gut wrenching if you have already chosen to live with less stuff.

Set your own rules. The point of this ideabook is to help you gain awareness of what kind of and how much stuff you need, so you can tailor your stuff to fit your life. And no one else can really do that for you. It may take a while to figure out exactly the right amount of stuff for you, but once you do, it’s bound to make your life a little easier.

Tell us: What are your numbers? How many sets of sheets, dishes or pairs of shoes are enough for you?

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.

Does Your Living Room Feel Unfinished? Ask Yourself These 6 Questions

Your answers can offer clues to get from not-yet-done to perfectly designed.

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Houzz Contributor, Karen Mills

Have you ever felt like your living room looks incomplete but you haven’t been sure what to do about it? Being your own decorator can be difficult — you get used to your own furniture, and it can be challenging to think of new approaches to a space you’ve been living in for some time. If that’s the situation for you, ask yourself these six questions to jump start a new perspective and take your living room from not-quite-right to beautifully decorated.

1. Do you have a focal point? Many features in a room can be its focal point, including a fireplace, built-in shelves or even a grouping like a chest with a lamp and art overhead. If a focal point doesn’t seem to exist in your living room, think about where your eye goes naturally when entering the room and create a point of interest there with furnishings, such as a sofa table and lamp or maybe a curio cabinet with decorative items. To emphasize your focal point, add finishes or decor that will make it stand out: an accent wall can draw the eye, as can bold artwork, contrasting decor or a stunning piece of furniture.

In this photo, a wide doorway frames the focal point beyond: the sofa and art. The white sofa, light walls and rug create a bold contrast against the eye-catching red pillows and dark tables. The large artwork pulls together the different colors in the room.

In this room, the built-in shelving is the obvious focal point, thanks in large part to its fetching blue paint. The large framed art and contrasting shelf decor further draw the eye to this part of the room. It’s just as important that the sofa, end table, coffee table, gray chair and pillows provide a neutral foreground that doesn’t compete with the shelving.

Keep in mind that not every element of your room has to be special or colorful or unique — keeping some pieces simple allows the items you want to showcase to really stand out.

2. Do you have a cozy seating arrangement that enhances your focal point? Of course a wide range of options exist on furniture placement, but by placing your sofa or love seat facing your focal point with chairs laced in to create an intimate grouping, you naturally draw attention toward that focal point, whether a fireplace, artwork or view beyond. If pointing your sofa toward the focal point isn’t an option or doesn’t look quite right, try flanking your focal point with the furniture grouping instead to enhance it like in this photo.

Here, the bold green chair and colorful decor on the mantel give emphasis to the fireplace, while the yellow pillow and flowers add a cheerful pop of color.

This photo provides a great example of a U-shaped seating arrangement that enhances the fireplace focal point, providing an enticing place to sit. The striated horizontal tile and lit shelving flanking the fireplace call further attention to that wall.

3. Do you have stylish side and coffee tables? Not only are tables practical for holding lamps, drinks and decor like trays, books or flowers, but also they can make a design statement.

These quirky stacked tables are a great example of how to have an impact when mixed with simple furnishings. If you have upholstery that looks heavy — skirted, thick legs or no legs showing — try offsetting them with tables that show more leg for a lighter, balanced feel (and vice versa). In this photo, a gallery-style wall of art adds a personal touch and vibrant color to the room, as do the pillows and plants.

4. Do you have an ample-size rug that augments your design? Rugs not only help delineate spaces in open floor plans but also ground a furniture grouping, or help define it as a contained space. When selecting a rug, ensure that it supports your room’s style and that it is large enough to tuck fully under your seating area. If not, then place front furniture legs on top of the rug, as in this photo, to create a connection between the rug and the furnishings.

5. Have you added window treatments? Window coverings can range from draperies, as shown in this photo, to window toppers and hard treatments like shades, blinds or shutters. Window treatments need to be beautiful as well as functional, providing privacy, darkening, sun protection and insulation from outside elements when needed.

In this photo, the draperies add height to the room and reinforce the color palette, making the room feel more finished.

6. Does your room showcase your style and color preferences? As much as neutral schemes can be calming and beautiful, accent colors and stylish furnishings can bring a room to life. In this photo, bright orange and golden yellow pillows warm up the gray sectional along with the orange and yellow accents on the shelving beyond.

Wall shelves and a coffee table reveal an affinity for clean-lined furniture in light woods, while the rug and gold pillow fabric at the far end of the sofa demonstrate a fondness for graphic patterns.

Five Overlooked Ways to Prepare Your Home for Sale

How to get your home ready for sale in 5 easy steps.

Congratulations! You’ve decided to list your home on the market. You know it’s a well-cared-for house and you feel confident you’ll be able to sell it for asking price.

Well, maybe “confident” isn’t the right word. You hope you’ll be able to get your asking price, but you wouldn’t mind having an extra push to help put the odds in your favor. You know, just a tiny boost to help you sleep more peacefully at night.

Your home deserves to be shown in the best possible light. Fortunately, there are small steps you can take to facilitate this – tiny improvements which don’t require much time or money.

Here are five often-overlooked ways you can prepare your home for sale.

1. Repaint the Trim

You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars meticulously painting every room of your house.

Instead, for a tiny investment, brighten the trim. We’re referring to baseboards, crown molding, and trim around doorways and windows. Focus on the interior of your house first. If you have the time and resources, paint the exterior trim as well.

Adding a new layer of paint to the trim can bring instant life back into your home, making the space feel fresher and cleaner.

Speaking of which …

2. Hire a Professional House Cleaner

Unless you’re excellent at deep cleaning, you should seriously consider investing a few hundred dollars in hiring a professional house cleaner.

They can undertake a thorough top-to-bottom scrub down, which includes cleaning the grout, polishing the faucets, wiping down the ceiling fan blades, and dislodging every crumb out of that irritating gap between your stove and countertop.

An ultra-clean house makes a huge difference in the eyes of a buyer. It can lead to the “wow” factor that may help put your home sale over the top.

3. Steam Clean the Carpets

Vacuuming the carpets is a good start, but when was the last time you had the carpets in your home professionally steamed-cleaned?

This type of cleaning can lift the smallest stains and imperfections out of your carpets. Your carpets will look as new as possible, at a substantially cheaper price than the cost of a replacement.

You can rent a carpet cleaner from a hardware store if you want to take the DIY route. However, you may get better results by hiring a professional company to take care of this on your behalf. Read online reviews about companies in your area or ask your real estate agent for recommendations.

4. Clear the Clutter

You may have a memory associated with every item in your living room – that old Coca-Cola glass bottle, a baseball cap from your hometown team – but a prospective buyer will view this as clutter.

Clutter overwhelms a space, distracting from your home’s more beautiful elements. Many people won’t notice the high ceilings or large windows if their attention is refocused on a pile of old magazines, heaps of unopened mail, and random wires, cables, tools, board games and DVDs scattered about everywhere.

Clutter also makes a space feel smaller. Your walk-in closet might be amply sized, but if it’s overstuffed with old clothes, jackets, boxes, suitcases and bags, your prospective buyers will think the closet space is insufficient. It doesn’t matter that the closet is actually bigger than the buyer’s first apartment; all they’ll see is the mess. You don’t want to showcase an empty closet – this looks uninviting – but you don’t want one that’s bursting at the seams, either.

Before you open your home for any showings, dedicate a weekend to clearing clutter from your home. Donate unused or unwanted items to a thrift store, or sell your old wares on eBay or Craigslist. If there’s inadequate space in your home for items you truly want or need, rent a storage unit.

5. Stage the Home

Professional investors often hire ‘staging companies’ to fill a home with furniture in order to showcase its potential.

If you’re still living in your current home, you’re already one step ahead of the game: your space is already furnished. Now you just need to up the ante by a notch, so that your home looks magazine-worthy.

Place a bouquet of fresh flowers on the coffee table. Position matching rolled towels next to the bathtub with a tiny decorative bar of soap placed on top. Arrange the bedspread so that the pillows create a ‘wow’ factor when buyers first enter the room.

Pay attention to fragrances within your home, as well. Light a scented candle (with a neutral aroma, like vanilla) in the bathroom or bedroom. Bake cookies just before a showing, so the smell lingers in the kitchen. Conversely, avoid cooking bacon just before a showing.

Open every window blind and curtain, to maximize the natural light that pours through. Keep the lights on in every room during open houses, so that every space appears bright and inviting.

Taking just a little bit of time to spruce up your home may result in better, faster and higher offers. You want potential buyers to fall in love at first sight. A cleaner, brighter look goes a long way toward helping you close the deal and walk away satisfied.

7 Reasons Buying Beats Renting

In most parts of the country, home buying is better than renting. Discover the advantages home buyers have in today’s market that renters are missing out on.

Why Buying a Home is Better than Renting
Conventional wisdom used to state that buying a home is always a great investment.  Home buying is still a better decision than renting for people who plan to remain in the space for at least 4-5 years or more, both for financial and emotional reasons. Let’s explore some of these factors in-depth.

Price Security in Home Buying
Historically, prices tend to rise over time. For example, a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk, and a semester of college tuition cost more today than they did in 1990.

Your mortgage payment, however, is one constant you can rely upon. If you hold a fixed-rate mortgage, your monthly principle and interest (P&I) payment remains the same, regardless of how prices are moving in other industries. (Your property taxes and homeowners insurance may rise.)

Price consistency offers the advantage of planning for the long-term future. As a homeowner, you can anticipate your monthly housing costs in 5, 10 or 15 years.

As a renter, you can’t lock in this type of security. As prices climb, landlords raise the rent to meet the current market. In fact, some landlords write rent escalation clauses into their leases, systematically raising the rent annually.

If you’re renting with a month-to-month lease, your landlord may announce a price jump with only 30 to 60 days of advanced warning, depending on the laws in your area. This puts renters in the difficult position of needing to either find the additional funds or scramble to secure new housing with little advance warning.

Investment – Cash-on-Cash Return
As a homebuyer, the outlay of a small down payment can give you the opportunity to make outsized gains.

Hypothetically, for example, imagine that you put a 20 percent down payment on a $100,000 house. The price rises 5 percent, to $105,000. You would earn $5,000 on your initial outlay of $20,000 – a return of 25 percent. This is known as cash-on-cash return, and homeownership can make this type of gain accessible to the average person.

Forced Savings
A home can be a type of “forced savings.” Each month, a portion of your mortgage payment is returned to you in the form of equity. The longer you own your home, the more equity you build – both via mortgage payments as well as in potential value increases.

Renters don’t have this luxury. Many of the pro-rental arguments hinge on the assumption that money “saved” (either via lower monthly payments or through alternate uses of the down payment) would be invested in the stock market.

Realistically, though, what’s the likelihood that a renter would invest that money, rather than spend it on a trip to the Bahamas? And if that money were invested, what’s the likelihood that a renter wouldn’t panic during the next crash and sell at the bottom of the market, turning paper losses into actual losses?

A home functions as ‘forced savings,’ helping you build equity. Like a personal trainer, it keeps you accountable.

Flexibility with Home Improvements
As a homeowner, you can have the freedom to upgrade your home to your heart’s content – without carrying risk or ongoing financial commitment.

If you get a bonus at work, you can celebrate by installing hardwood floors or renovating the bathroom. If you suffer a financial setback, you can defer your plans to remodel the kitchen.

Renters don’t hold this flexibility. The only way they can upgrade their living space is by moving, and this entails both hassle and commitment.

Homeowners, by contrast, can upgrade their home piecemeal as they accumulate cash over the years. Home improvements are a one-time expense that doesn’t require continuous commitment.

Pride of Home Ownership
You wouldn’t invest hundreds of hours cultivating an exquisite garden in a rental property. You wouldn’t hang wallpaper or replace the light fixtures on a rental property.

As a homeowner, you can take pride in crafting, personalizing and perfecting your home. The space can truly morph into a reflection of you, in a way that a rental property never could.

Neighborhood Connection
As a homeowner, you’re more likely to become involved in your local community. There’s a stronger chance that you’ll join the neighborhood association, organize potlucks or block parties with your neighbors, coach a local sports league or volunteer at the local school.

While it’s possible that you’ll get involved with the community as a renter, you’ll also likely feel an emotional barrier that stems from knowing you might move in a year or two. Committing to an area for the long-term can inspire you to invest more time and energy into improving the neighborhood and connecting with the surrounding community.

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.

How to Choose the Most Important Features in a Home

Determining exactly what to look for is often the most difficult part of the home search. Learn how to focus on the most important features and ignore the rest.

Buying a home can be a long process. Approaching it correctly from the beginning can save a great deal of time and effort later and help improve your chances of finding the right home for you.

Make a List of the Most Important Aspects You Want in a Home

Determining exactly what to look for is often the most difficult part of the home search. Homes come in varying shapes and sizes, with different colors and characteristics. Paying attention to all of these details can become problematic, causing you to lose focus.

The best way to avoid this is to sit down ahead of time and make a list of the most important aspects of the home you want to buy. For example, you likely have a certain number of bedrooms in mind. Maybe you want to be in a certain school district, or perhaps you want a larger kitchen.

Some experts recommend making a secondary list of desirable characteristics that you can do without, but would prefer to have, if possible. This list can be longer and used to narrow down choices or decide between homes if more than one is appealing.

Know How to Identify Cost-Efficient Fixer-Upper Homes

When evaluating potential homes to buy, experts note that you shouldn’t put too much emphasis on easily altered cosmetic details like the color of the walls. Repainting may not be convenient, but it is one of the cheapest and easiest changes to make to a home.

Attention might be better focused on aspects that cannot be altered without extensive and expensive work, such as the floor plan. It may also be difficult to ignore the furniture and belongings of the home’s current occupants, but you should remember those items will not be there if and when you move in and make it your own.

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.

DIY: Decorating Your Home With Photos

Decorating with photos is an awesome way to spice up your home in a really dramatic way without spending a whole lot of money. Don’t worry if you haven’t got a lot of money; your own photos are probably better than anything you’d buy.

COLDWELL BANKER

Dial up the gorgeous drama of your NYC home with a fun photo decor DIY project. Photographs, like art, can help us express ourselves in many different ways. They can help us play up our sentimental side, make important statements, and complete the canvas of our homes. Learning how to decorate with photos, as simple as it sounds, can be quite daunting once you put your mind to it. How exactly should you go about it? Should you hang provocative art in your living room where everyone can see it? Is it cheesy to hang photos of your entire family on your fridge? What’s the right thing to do?

The Right Way Is Your Way

Don’t worry that you’ll end up decorating with photos that people may think are cheesy or that are too much. Photographs are an expression and extension of yourself, so you’re hanging and displaying them to express your vision. Of course, if you have children regularly visiting your home, you don’t want to hang something for mature audiences only in a room where everyone gathers. You know who you invite into your home; use your judgment.

Use Your Own Photos

There are photographic gems you probably aren’t even aware of (or even remember exist) buried inside your very own camera or flash drives. Photos of vacations past, a child’s birthday party, a lonely street at night — any of these could be striking or thought-provoking enough to make perfect wall art. You don’t have to use the whole image; maybe it’s a detail of an image that’s frame worthy. If you don’t have the scene you’re looking for, create it: Your child’s feet as they leap off the ground; your grandmother’s smile the instant she bursts into laughter upon hearing an off-color joke; your cat’s profile as she watches a bird outside the window. The possibilities are literally endless.

 

Display Them In Innovative Ways

You can rarely go wrong with square or rectangular black frames backed by white matte when it comes to framing your pictures, but there are many different ways you can display your photos. Attach a series of photos individually on metallic clips and hang them from a metal wire grid that takes up your entire wall. Put some vintage photos inside of old mason jars. Blow up a favorite photo to life-size stats and hang it front and center in your main living area or passageway.