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December
6

Prep Your Home For Guests With These Tips

The holidays are a special time of year when joy and laughter fill the air. We decorate the house with festive ornaments, string lights along the rooftop, shop for holiday gifts, and celebrate the season with family and friends who come to visit.

Whether your holiday guests are visiting overnight or staying for a few days, they need a cozy place to relax and sleep. Hosting guests requires some preparation, but you don't need to stress. With a little effort, you can make your guests feel comfortable and welcome for the holidays.

Create a Warm Welcome

Welcome your guests to your home with a festive entry that showcases the holiday season. Starting outdoors, adorn the trees and shrubs with holiday twinkle lights, line the front walkway with poinsettias, hang a seasonal wreath on the front door, and greet your guests with a cup of hot chocolate. As guests step into your home, welcome them with scented holiday candles, a roaring fire in the fireplace, freshly-baked muffins, and a beautiful holiday tree filled with ornaments, tinsel, and wrapped gifts.

Stock the Kitchen

When you're hosting overnight guests, make sure you stock the kitchen with extra food and beverages. A self-service style layout will keep you from playing short-order cook, especially when guests are staying for several days. Set up an area in the kitchen for a coffee bar with mugs, spoons, and sweeteners. Provide a convenient countertop area for making toast, sandwiches, salads, and plate lunches. For late-night snacks, fill a big basket with fresh fruits, snacks, and sweets so guests can munch at their leisure.

Prepare the Guest Bedroom

A beautiful, inviting guest room is a sure way to make your holiday guests feel welcome. First, create a comfortable, cozy bed with fresh linens, puffy pillows, and warm blankets or quilts. As a welcoming gesture, leave some mints or chocolates on the pillows and a good book on the nightstand. Next, make room for your guests' personal belongings:

  • Find space for suitcases
  • Clear a shelf or drawer
  • Clear out space in the closet
  • Make room for a laptop
  • Buy an extra shoe rack

If your guests are staying for a while, make sure they have easy access to wall plugs and consider sharing your wi-fi password. To create more restful sleep, put a sound machine, a small fan, or a humidifier in the room. If there's no TV in the guest room, leave some magazines, a pack of playing cards, or a puzzle on the dresser. In case of an emergency, make sure there's a flashlight near the bed.

Prepare the Guest Bathroom

Whether your guest bathroom is directly off the bedroom or down the hall, make sure your guests have everything they need. Before you start gathering essentials, clean the bathroom spic and span, clear out non-essentials, fill the room with fresh scents, and put down non-slip rugs. Once the bathroom is sparkling, you can put out guest essentials:

  • Fresh towels and washcloths
  • Rolls of extra toilet paper
  • Toiletries (toothbrushes and toothpaste)
  • Liquid or bar soap
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Air freshener
  • A first-aid kit

Some people travel with their own beauty essentials, so put a decorative basket on the sink or vanity where they can conveniently store them during their visit. For fresh scents and a relaxing atmosphere, place a few holiday candles on the tub or the vanity.

Above all, remember it's the personal attention you show to your guests that really matters, so welcome them to a comfortable holiday home filled with warmth, laughter, and lasting memories.

December
5

5 Things to Do Before Your First Showing

You work hard to get potential buyers into your home. Whether you've scheduled a last-minute viewing or a daylong open house, your home should be ready when they arrive.

Every room should be neat, clean, aired out, comfortable, and bright. Your entire home should be a silent invitation to buy. It's important to hide the stuff that sends a different message.

  • Your Identity
    When a potential buyer looks at your home, they want to consider what it would be like if they lived there. Your presence during a viewing would make it difficult, which is why you're not invited. Things in your home that present the same dilemma should be hidden.

    - Family photos may tell potential buyers, "this is their"
    - Cultural or ethnic mementos can send a divisive message.
    - Guns and political mementos are controversial and may inspire anger.
    - An odd smell can be the only thing a potential buyer remembers about your home.

  • Pets and Pet Evidence
    Potential home buyers see dogs and cats as smelly little creatures that leave behind a permanent odor. You're not likely to get rid of your beloved pet just to sell your home. However, you should eliminate tell-tale pet evidence before each showing.

    - Make pet odor and hair removal an ongoing project.
    - Take litter boxes, animal habitats, and food and water dishes with you.
    - Get a pet carrier for quick getaways.
    - Light a mildly scented candle to cover left-behind odors.

  • Clutter
    Your clutter might be irreplaceable knick-knacks, beautiful collectibles, or a must-have shoe collection. Still, these things make your home look less roomy, less neat, and less desirable than its decluttered version.

    Remember:
    - Clear your stuff from every surface unless it serves a specific purpose.
    - Clean out and organize your closets.
    - Remove belongings stored under a bed. It gives the impression of too little storage space.
    - Clear kitchen counters except for high-end appliances.
    - Remove throw rugs. They're clutter-ish and also a trip and fall hazard.
    - Store removed items away from your residence.

  • Valuables
    You have no idea who is in your home during an open house. It's impossible for your real estate agent to watch everyone every moment, so it's best to be cautious. Take your jewelry and other valuables with you, or consider storing them in a safe deposit box.

  • Toys
    Toys are often hard to manage because they're everywhere, and children aren't big fans of decluttering. If you're tidying up your home to put it on the market, now is a good time to establish a donate-toys-to-charity habit with your kids.

    Your children's generosity will make it easier to keep your rooms neat during the marketing process.

Keep these tips in mind when prepping for your first showing, and you're sure to attract the attention of promising buyers.

December
2

5 Holiday Decorating Tips for Small Spaces

Are you in the process of getting your decorations up and realizing you're running out of room? Maybe you are starting to outgrow your current home? Today, we are sharing 5 decorating tips for small spaces.

Keep It Simple

A Christmas tree is a must but opt for something smaller that won't take up a ton of space. When it comes to your Christmas decor theme, use lots of neutrals. Winter White looks so pretty againt a tree and won't overwhelm small spaces. 

Create Ambiance

Candles are your best friend when it comes to making smaller spaces festive and cozy. You might not have tons of extra space for strands of garlands and lights without feeling overwhelming, but candles can be added to decorative trays, countertops and your mantle, if you have one. 

Chunky Linens

Swap out linens and blankers with cozy, chunky textures. Think chuny knut blankets, sheepskin rugs and comfy pillows. If you don't want to totally replace what you have then bring on the layers! Festive flannel sheets are a fun way to add decor to your bedroom without taking up any additional space.

Festive Framed Artwork

One of the easiest ways to add holiday cheer to your home is to swap out current framed photos or art with fun Christmas prints. You can even print your own Christmas quotes in pretty font and frame them for the season.

Bring The Outdoors In

Evergreen clippings, berries and birch logs for the win! You can add berries to a pretty vase, and use evergreen clippings to accent the fireplace, kitchen table, a mirror - really anywhere! Lean birch logs against a corner wall or throw into a woven basket for some easy decor.

What do you think of these simple holiday decor ideas? What is your favorite way to make your home festive for the holidays?

November
29

Buying a House for a Blended Family

When the step-siblings of The Brady Bunch made their TV debut in 1969, the concept of a blended family was something of a novelty. Today, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 75 percent of divorced people remarry and 65 percent of those remarriages include children. In addition, a study by Pew Research Center indicates that 16 percent of kids under the age of 18 are living in blended families.


By definition, a blended family increases the number of household members, making it unlikely that either of the current homes is suitable options. If you're buying a house for a blended family, start off on the right note with these helpful tips.

  • Get Professional Financial Advice
    In first marriages, couples are generally building a financial profile together. Couples who come together later in life have already established careers, credit histories, and tolerance for risk. Consult a financial advisor who can help create mutually compatible goals and budgets.
  • Be Realistic about Space Considerations
    What seems doable in theory often turns out to be impractical in reality. How many kids can reasonably share a bedroom? Will everyone have to stand in line to shower in a single bathroom? Give your blended family room to breathe as they become accustomed to their new living situation.
  • Choose Location Strategically
    If real estate is all about "location, location, location," that applies double to buying a house for a blended family. Instead of having only one side relocate, you may decide on a "neutral" neighborhood to put everyone on equal footing. Proximity to kids' other parents is also a vital factor in shared custody arrangements.
  • Involve the Kids
    When partners in a new relationship have children, kids may often feel they are along for the ride. They may find themselves in the middle of changes completely out of their control. Bring kids along as you view houses and solicit their input to emphasize that it's their home also. Once you've made the move, assign each child a designing "project" to put their own stamp on the new home.
  • Plan Timing Carefully
    Coordinating the process of buying a house with the sale of your existing home can be tricky enough. When you add in the sale of a second home, it becomes a real juggling act. Prepare a backup plan, such as renting out one of the homes or moving into a short-term rental, in case the timing hits a snag.

The definition of family continues expanding to include previously non-traditional forms, but the idea of home as the center of family life remains constant. Buying a house that accommodates the needs of a blended family is the first step toward creating happy memories together.

November
28

The Ultimate To-Do List For Home Sellers

Selling your home involves a lot of details — some you probably haven't even thought about. There are a few main areas most of these fall under, and having a list can help you plan and prepare effectively.

The Planning Stages

You've made the decision to sell your home, and now it's time to work out all the details.

  • Determine your timeline. How fast do you need to sell? Do you need to find another home first? How much time will you need to prepare your home?
  • Make a list of all repair or upgrade projects. Big and small inside and outside. Estimate completion time and cost.
  • Have an idea about pricing. You probably don't want to decide on the final figure without talking to your agent first, but do some research and think about a range that takes into account any major repairs or upgrades.

Work on Curb Appeal

The first thing buyers notice about your house is the outside, so start here. Walk toward the street and look at your house to see what kind of first impression buyers are getting. What can be improved? 

  • Remove clutter. Branches and debris, trash cans, bikes, tools, and toys should all be removed or put away.
  • Mow and edge the lawn.
  • Trim trees and shrubs. Make sure they aren't blocking windows or the view of the house.
  • Add flowers or plants and mulch.
  • Repair or add a walkway.
  • Paint. You may not need to paint the entire house. A fresh coat or color change on the trim, shutters, front door or garage door may be enough.
  • Update a curbside mailbox.
  • Replace, relocate or repaint house numbers.
  • Repair, replace or add exterior lighting.
  • Add or refresh porch furniture.

Getting the Inside Ready

You'll want the inside of your home to look just as amazing as the outside. Consider hiring a professional home stager. Having someone who doesn't have an emotional attachment to anything in the home can be helpful.

Here are some other things you can do.

  • Declutter. Dispose of, donate or store unnecessary items. Remember, buyers will look everywhere. The less you have to hide or reorganize, the better. 
  • Remove your personal touches. Flashy décor and artwork, family photos, and collections should be removed. It's hard for buyers to envision themselves in the home when your belongings are visible.
  • Detail clean. Wash walls and baseboards and molding to remove scuff marks and fingerprints. Clean inside cabinets, corners, and window tracks. Every house has those areas that get passed over. Now is the time to make sure they're clean.
  • Paint. Freshening up the color or repainting in a neutral color can give your home wider appeal.
  • Make small repairs. Potential buyers see burned-out light bulbs, loose handles and doorknobs, and dripping faucets and wonder what else may have been neglected.
  • Take a sniff. Weird smells are a major turn-off. Clean, sanitize, or get rid of the source.
  • Lock up or relocate valuables.
  • Wash windows.
  • Redo caulking in the bathroom and clean the grout. 

Meet with Your Real Estate Agent

It's a good idea to use a real estate agent when selling your home. An agent will list your home, publicize it, and schedule tours. They can also advise you on pricing. 

There are a lot of details involved in selling your home. Being well organized and planning ahead can save time and help you get the price you're looking for.

November
25

Make Your Home Smarter Without Spending A Fortune

Everything from security cameras and thermostats to light bulbs and locks is now available with wireless connectivity, and when multiple devices communicate, they join an "Internet of things" that instantly makes life more convenient and customizable. Some even learn your preferences and household habits, then adjust themselves accordingly. However, some homeowners still assume that "smart home" technology is still out of their price range.

If you want to smarten up your home and take advantage of the latest gadgets, you don't actually have to invest in a six-figure rewiring job. Instead, just take some of the following steps to keep your home compatible with the 21st century.

  • Swap Out Your Light Bulbs for Smart LED Bulbs
    Traditional light bulbs generate heat, use electricity, emit one color, need to be replaced every so often, and only respond to physical switches. Smart LED bulbs, on the other hand, generate no heat, use far less electricity, may change colors, last much longer, and can be controlled wirelessly. Whether you care about the planet or you need more lighting options, WiFi LED bulbs like the Philips Hue system or single LIFX bulbs are the way to go. If you want to spend less than $20 per bulb, opt for Bluetooth-enabled bulbs like the GE C-Life instead.

  • Plug Your Appliances into Smart Plugs
    Do you want to control your oven, computer, TV, or any other appliance remotely? You don't have to wait until a "smart fridge" is in the budget. Now, it's possible to connect your mobile devices to anything that plugs into your wall, thanks to pass-through plugs like the Belkin WeMo Insight Switch or the mydlink Home Smart Plug. Download an app to turn appliances on and off, monitor usage patterns, and more.

  • Invest in a Nest
    It's hard to overstate the value of a programmable thermostat, especially when it's as striking as the popular Nest. This wireless-enabled thermostat is easy to plug into your existing HVAC wires, and once it's installed, you can use your phone to adjust the minimum and maximum temperatures, set specific temperatures, program fluctuations, and more. Best of all, the Nest knows where you are and adjusts your temperature accordingly. You can even set it to conserve extra energy by turning off its screen until you walk up to it.

  • Greet Visitors with the Ring Video Doorbell
    Who's at the door? If you had a Ring doorbell, you would never have to ask that question again. Ring integrates two-way audio for speaking back and forth through the door, a camera that allows you to see your visitors in HD from anywhere in the house (or the world) in any lighting, and motion sensors that make it easy to start recording when someone arrives. With Ring, you can even set up mobile alerts when someone rings the bell or comes near your door. Ring's doorbells range from $150 per doorbell to more than $600 for whole camera systems, but peace of mind is priceless.

How will you turn your house into a smart home? Investing in a few wireless gadgets now may save time, money, and energy for years to come, but let's be honest: it makes your house look a whole lot cooler, too. Whether you hope to attract buyers soon or you want to make life in your new home more convenient and futuristic, these smart products are a great place to start.

November
23

You Just Might Have Seller's Remorse

No matter how much you're looking forward to turning over your house keys to a new owner, selling your home can lead to deep soul-searching.

Did I get a good price? Will the new owners love my home the way I do? Did I really want to sell in the first place? If you're asking yourself these questions, you just might have a case of seller's remorse.

When you walk away from a place you love, it can feel like abandoning an old friend. Fortunately, the emotional attachments will likely fade with time. The financial regrets that settle in after closing can be even more difficult, but you'll have to let them go as well. Those wordy closing documents you signed are contracts. They're difficult to break, no matter how much remorse you feel.

The best time to manage seller's remorse is before you put your home on the market. Begin the process by asking yourself these questions:

Am I listing for the right reason?

Empty nest? Divorce? Financial gain? Impulse? Exactly why are you selling your home? If you received a big job offer with a deadline to relocate to a new city, selling your home can feel like lifting a weight off your shoulders. If you list your home because Uncle Bob said you could make a ton of money, you might not realize it's a bad idea until the deal is done. 

Only you can decide if selling your home is the right decision for you. 

Am I listing for the right price?

Pricing your home can be tricky. It's not an exact science, but your real estate agent can help. Review recent home sales and research comparables — homes similar to yours in similar neighborhoods. Also, when calculating the potential net return on your sale, don't ignore these and other before-sale and after-sale costs.

  • Home repairs and upgrades
  • Cleaning and landscaping
  • Staging and photography
  • Commissions
  • Relocation costs

Your price should include enough wiggle room to negotiate with a serious buyer. If your price is too high, you'll attract few potential buyers. If you price your home too low, you may lose money on the deal. That's a sure trigger for seller's remorse.

Have I found my next home?

Whatever the cause of your seller's remorse, it will likely fade with time. The healing process may take longer to begin if you sign the closing documents on your old home but don't have a new home to go to.

Sellers do that sometimes when a buyer's purchase is contingent on a quick closing. You can do it too. But if you don't have a backup plan, the sensation of temporary "homelessness" can leave you with an acute case of remorse. It's important to think before you list:

  • Find a home before you put your home on the market.
  • Consider what you'll do if your home sells quickly.
  • Locate movers and storage facilities that require little notice.
  • Research temporary housing options.
  • Offer the buyer incentives in exchange for a delayed closing.

Seller's remorse happens

The sense of having made the wrong choice can happen any time you make a decision with long-range consequences. That's why it's important to work with a real estate professional when you decide to sell your home. Your real estate agent can work with you from pre-listing through closing. You'll gain confidence in the home-selling process, and that will minimize your chances of succumbing to seller's remorse.

November
22

Savvy Ways to Increase Your Home's Value

Whether you plan to be in your home for just a few more months or many more years, there are plenty of efficient ways to maximize your space and increase its value. This type of investment needn't require a loan, nor does it have to span any great length of time. From green living to greenery in your yard, here are a few impactful and straightforward means of boosting your home's value and appeal over the short or long term.

A Smart Move

Green is the new black. Any form of energy efficiencies and conservation in your home will inevitably be a fiscal gain. Whether you install energy-saving window treatments or solar panels, both options can reduce utility expenses for you and any future inhabitants. When it comes time to replace appliances, a prudent decision would be to select a "smart" model of said item, which can significantly lower long-term energy costs.

While on the topic of efficiency, a wise investment would be installing "smart" devices throughout your property. Think digital features such as automated blinds or shades, security cameras, door locks, security lighting and thermostats. When you're ready to sell, the smart tech will appeal to buyers with a penchant for the added value of convenience and connectivity.

Wide Open Spaces

Create visual space in rooms by keeping them clutter-free and organized, which can be solved by simply installing a stylish shelving unit to keep extraneous items out of sight. Seek the help of a professional organizer who will be bursting with innovative ideas to optimize the storage areas in your dwelling.

Another way to increase square footage without a renovation is to let the sunshine in! Avoid heavy drapes and instead, use modern window treatments that add height such as roller, Roman or cellular shades. Similarly, you can position a decorative floor-to-ceiling mirror in any room to visually double your space.

From the Bottom Up

Explore the possibility of replacing the flooring in a few key spaces. A unique, beautiful and buzzworthy material is cork, which is also known to have antibacterial properties. If you opt for new surfaces under your feet, consider installing radiant heating simultaneously. These systems not only add optimum comfort, but are also aesthetically pleasing and energy efficient.

Make an impact through your lighting choices. Utilize contemporary or dramatic fixtures to complement each room. Whether you choose minimal or eye-catching designs – the right piece in the optimal locale can add intrigue and substance to your residence.

Kick It Up a Notch

Significant updates to your kitchen and bathroom are sure to boost value. Modern appliances and updated décor increase appeal to buyers, so consider a new backsplash or that roomy farmhouse-style sink you've been eyeing. Think one step further and install a water filtration system to add practicality and luxury to your dwelling. Additional elements like stylish sconces, a new vanity or a vintage mirror can elevate functionality and increase allure.

It's Only Natural

Consider your front and backyard. If there is an area that would benefit from some striking landscaping or creative plantings, explore your options or consult with a professional landscape architect or designer. Executed well, a garden or other natural elements in your yard can become lovely extensions of your home's indoor atmosphere.

When you look around, there are many ways to enhance the comfort and appeal of your property that will serve you well as a resident – and add value one day when you're ready to sell.

 

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