Category Archives: Misc

Does Size Really Matter?

Does Size Really Matter?

Now that you’re embarking on home ownership, you might wonder how large a space you actually need. After all, apartments tend to be a bit smaller than the average home and the siren song of extra space lures many a buyer into purchasing the biggest bang for their buck. While the size of houses increased during the early 2000s, the new home market shows a 15 percent decrease in square footage for the average home.

While some buyers yearn for more space, others have downsized … even while their children still live in the home. In fact, a trend toward very small homes has increased in popularity in recent years.

While no one can decide what’s exactly right for your situation, here are some things to consider:

How much space do you really need? vs. How much space do you want or can afford?

To answer this question, you’ll need to spend some time determining your family’s lifestyle:

  • How many people will live in the house? Brothers of a similar age can easily share a room, for example, but teens may do better in a separate space from their younger siblings. If grandparents share the home too, they may enjoy their own living area.
  • Do you often have out-of-town guests? If so, you’ll need sleeping room for guests, and even an extra bath.
  • Do you have lots of indoor hobbies? Sewing, crafting and woodworking in your living space can make day-to-day life difficult for the rest of the family. If you have indoor crafts, you’ll need a home with an extra room, a large garage, workshop, basement or attic.
  • Do you work from home? Both for tax purposes and for your own sanity, you may need an office with its own door. Being able to “leave work” is a boost for most home-based entrepreneurs, too.
  • Does a larger home require more maintenance? If more space just means more time cleaning, you might be happier in a smaller space, but if a smaller space means constant purging and organizing, a little more room to store your stuff can fill the bill.
  • Do you plan to keep the home into your empty nest or retirement years? If so, you may be willing to live with less space-per-person now so that you have a paid-off home that’s just the right size later.

Talk to your professional

Deciding how much space you want or need, and how you plan to use it is important before you begin to look. Your agent may show you a beautiful home that you become infatuated with, but that isn’t really right for your needs … but if she knows your needs and how you want to live, she’s more likely to show you the home that becomes your long-time love—no matter what size it is.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Lofts — Not Just for the Young

 

Lofts — Not Just for the Young

As a real estate trend, loft living is here to stay. Originally thought of as live/work spaces for artists and musicians, the term “loft” evokes transformed warehouses and industrial spaces with exposed brickwork, open pipes and electrical conduits and other industrial-type accoutrements such as old wood or concrete floors. While the original concept of a loft is the transformation of an old commercial building into big, open living spaces, modern lofts can include new construction and spaces with walls, too. Buyers drawn to loft living include historic artistic residents, young professionals and even empty nesters and Baby Boomers.

Easy care

While artists are looking for more space and young professionals want to be nearer to work and nightlife, empty nesters desire the spaces as an answer to their need for less demanding upkeep. With no yard to mow or flowerbeds to tend, roofs to replace or leaves to rake, the urban life is a great draw for active mid-life professionals once their children leave home.

Easy access

Living in a warehouse just for the sake of living in a warehouse is not what we’re talking about here. Even in small communities, downtown living typically means being nearer to activities, theatres, public libraries, medical care, shopping, offices and public transportation. For some, living nearer to the places they like to go means they’ll actually get to experience events more often. Leaving work, driving home to the suburbs only to turn around and come back into the city for a show, concert, gallery opening, etc. is a huge effort compared to stepping out the front door of your loft building and walking a couple blocks to the theatre district.

Alternatives

As urban loft living grows in popularity, the strict definition of a loft as a transformed warehouse, commercial or industrial building has given way to some new construction and to the so-called “soft lofts.” Due to the popularity of actual converted lofts, savvy developments replicating some of the features of traditional lofts into new construction offer an option for urban loft-style living in newly-built buildings that take advantage of the urban atmosphere and open floorplans. But, they offer lower-cost utilities with the use of more ecologically designed windows or more efficient heating and cooling options. Often, soft-lofts use recycled materials and renewable resources. Additionally, rather than one large space, a soft-loft may have actual walls dividing bedrooms from kitchens and other more traditional apartment features including built-in closets.

Community

A most compelling reason for loft living in an urban area is the sense of close community that many residents claim from living and working near to where they also shop and play.

If you’re interested in learning more about loft-style condominiums or commercial buildings that might make a great loft conversion, we can guide you through the ins and outs. Give us a call today and we’ll get started.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Energy Conserving Landscaping Tips

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As you plan your landscaping for your new home, remember the green you plant outside affects the green you have left inside your pocketbook. Trees and shrubs can reduce the amount of electricity your home requires. Try these tips to keep some green in you wallet and beautify your green space too.

Trees

Careful choices in the location of trees can shade your windows when they’re saplings and shade your roof when they mature. If you plant leafy green trees on the southern, eastern and western sides of your home, they’ll keep your home shaded during the hot summer months, but allow warmth in during the winter when their leaves have fallen. If you plant them in front of windows they’ll reduce the radiant heat to the reaches the inside of your home. Start with six to eight-foot trees that will grow to 20 or 30-foot shade trees.

Planting evergreen trees on the northern side as a windbreak and reduce that cold air blast from a chill winter storm. A windbreak protects and area as much as eight to 10 times as far away as its height, so a 20-foot windbreak could shield a 200-foot wide area. If the foliage is dense, it can cut wind speeds by more than 80 percent. If you have the space, plant the trees in two rows, or even three for the best windbreak effect.

The estimated savings to your heat and cooling bills can be as much as 25 to 50 percent or more with well-placed trees.

Bushes and shrubs

Shading your air conditioner’s condensing unit allows it to cool air more efficiently. In fact, some estimates are that it gives you’re A/C system a 10 percent boost in efficiency. Be sure to keep plants and shrubs at least three feet away from the outside of the condensing unit. Make sure that the unit has proper airflow. Trim any trailing vines or branches near the equipment or vents so that they don’t get clogged.

Lawn and groundcover

Open green spaces, particularly on the south side of your home, create snow fields … places for snow to accumulate that can reflect light back onto your home and increase the radiant heat effect. In the summer, open fields allow cooling breezes to reach your home.

Light-reflecting stone or concrete reflects light and heat toward your home, causing it to be warmer (or hotter) in the daytime. Darker stone, wood chips, mulch or green groundcover absorbs the daytime heat, slowly releasing it throughout the evening and nighttime. This keeps your home cooler in the daytime but gives some warmth to patios in the evening.

Other elements

If you don’t have room for trees to shade your windows, consider a trellis and an annual vine. Berms, planters, stone walls, fences and other raised elements should be at near, but not attached to, your home to create dead air space. The space acts as insulation and keeps your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer by controlling how much indoor heat escapes from your home during cold weather and how much outdoor heat reaches your home in the hot seasons.

Plant for water conservation

Reduce your electric bills and conserve water even more by planting drought-tolerant trees and shrubs that grow well in your climate.

When searching for the perfect new home, let us know about your concerns for energy efficiency and landscape effects that contribute to lowering your energy bills. We can help you find the perfect home to put your ideas in to practice.

Compliments of Virtual Results

What is Live-Work Space?

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Many buildings tout themselves as live-work spaces, but live-work designations are not all equal. For example, a primarily residential building that has no restriction on working from home can be called a live-work space but it is hardly comparable to a building that allows you to have employee, walk-in customers or clients, public access parking, or locations that allow more hazardous or noisy commercial activity.

Planning and zoning regulations differ in live-work or work-live spaces compared to those that are primarily residential, but do not restrict a home occupation. Typically, these locations are part of an urban renewal between the industrial and residential parts of a city. Creating lifestyle lofts that include workspace, or work space that includes living areas can be a strong part of a vibrant mixed-used development district. Reuse of historic structures that would otherwise be allowed to decay through vacancy typically enjoys some relaxation of the standard residential building codes under state and municipal laws in many areas. However, new construction live-work spaces usually must adhere to residential codes, including the impact on local school districts.

Who lives in live-work properties?

  • Artists: the phenomenon of live-work properties started in the artist communities when artists and musicians could not find workspace they could afford and so chose to forego personal space and live in their workspace. Many urban centers offer so-called “Artists’ Protection Zones” that impose certain restrictions on rent increases to keep space more affordable for artists.
  • Start-ups: live-work spaces often appeal to entrepreneurs that see their space as an incubator of new ideas. They want to be close to their work so that living doesn’t interrupt the development of their business ideas.
  • Virtual or telecommute employees: unlike artists and entrepreneurs, employees that connect to their place of work via the Internet may find that live-work properties have better access to high-speed Internet that other residential areas. While they may not need to have a separate workspace, many virtual employees prefer to be surrounded by the sounds of other people working to keep them on task. Some live-work buildings even offer community spaces for workers to gather, meet each other, share ideas and generally encourage one another. Often, residents in live-work spaces find that they can use each other’s services.

Is a live-work space for you?

Only you can know if a live-work situation will work for you. Often, live-work lofts and warehouse conversions are near to factories, railroad tracks and other noise-producing industries. If you need quiet for your work, a live-work loft might not be the best place for you. But, if you thrive on the energy and industry of others, and like the idea of waking up and walking across the hall to your place of business, studio or office, we can help you find the live-work space that works for you.

Compliments of Virtual Results

5 Tips for Saving Money this Winter

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Are you looking for ways to save a little extra cash this winter? From being a savvy holiday shopper to making a few home improvements, there are many steps that you can take to help save some money while still enjoying life to its fullest. Here are 5 tips to help you save big this winter.

Tip #1: Seal Cracks

One of the biggest energy wasters in many homes is cracks, crevices and other areas that allow the warm air to escape while the cold air gets in. To address this issue, caulk the area around your windows and doors. Also, check where your pipes leave and enter your home and seal this area to prevent air from escaping.

Tip #2: Install More Insulation

While your home should have the insulation that is required by code, it likely does not have enough insulation to give your home full protection from the cold. Installing more insulation will require making a small investment of your time and money, but it will be a worthwhile investment when you see the reduction in your energy bills. Even if you are certain you have enough insulation, check your attic insulation once per year to make sure it does not need to be replaced. Over time, insulation does break down and new insulation must be added in order to enjoy the same benefits.

Tip #3: Install a Programmable Thermostat

One great way to cut down on energy costs is to lower your thermostat while you are sleeping or while you are at work. Unfortunately, it is easy to forget to do this, which means you are unnecessarily heating your house even while you are not home. Another downside is that you wake up to a cold house or come home to a cold house that takes time to warm up. With a programmable thermostat, you can be sure the temperature will go down when you do not need it. Furthermore, you can program it so your house is already warmed up by the time you need it.

Tip #4: Take Advantage of Rewards and Flexible Spending Dollars

To help keep your holiday spending in check, look at opportunities for using reward points that you have accumulated with credit cards and memberships. Exchanging your points for gift cards and other products can be a great way to come up with wonderful gifts for loved ones without actually spending any money. Similarly, if you have set up flexible spending accounts, be sure to spend those dollars before the end of the year. In most cases, any money you do not spend by the end of the year is lost, so take full advantage of the dollars that are available to you before they go away for good.

Tip #5: Set Financial Goals

The end of the year is a great time to look at your financial situation and to make some changes for next year. One change you can try to make is to ask your employer for more money. Most employers do end-of-the-year performance reviews, which presents the perfect time for you to ask for a raise. Visit websites such as Payscale.com to get an idea of what you should make in your profession. Then, make a list of your accomplishments as well as your career goals for the next year. Share this information with your employer as you make an argument for a raise. Even if the raise doesn’t come through, set other financial goals for the New Year that will help you save more money and achieve the financial independence you desire.

4 Tips for Obtaining a Mortgage Loan After a Divorce

If you have recently been divorced or if you are in the middle of a divorce, you may be concerned about your future housing arrangements. After all, there is a very good chance that you lost or will be losing the house that you shared with your spouse. Now that you’re financial situation is changing, you may be worried that you will have trouble with getting a mortgage so you can buy a new home. Unfortunately, these concerns are often well-founded. At the same time, this does not mean that getting a new mortgage loan is impossible. In fact, here are 5 tips for getting a mortgage after a divorce.

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Tip #1: Get Your Name Off of the Mortgage

If your ex is keeping the house, make every effort possible to get your name off of the mortgage. Typically, this means your ex will need to refinance the house so it is in only his or her name. This is beneficial to you both because your ex does not need to worry about you making future claims for the house and you no longer have to worry about this huge debt showing up on your credit report. Of course, if your ex does not have the necessary credit rating to refinance the house, this may not be an option. In this case, it may be better to simply sell the house and split the profits. If you have no choice but to let your ex continue to live in the house with your name on the loan, be sure to determine how future profits will be split when the house is sold in the future.

Tip #2: Wait Until the Divorce is Final Before Making a Purchase

Even if you have found the house of your dreams and you have plenty of cash to spare, it is never a good idea to purchase a home while your divorce is still pending. This can cause problems in two major ways. First, if the lender finds out that you are going through a divorce, it could affect your financing because of potential alimony and child support payments. Second, if your soon-to-be-ex discovers you have purchased a home, you may find yourself owing even more money to your ex before the divorce is final.

Tip #3: Make Your Ex Your Roomie

A growing number of divorced and soon-to-be-divorced couples are choosing to continue to live together until they can get their finances squared away. If you had an amiable divorce and can find a way to live together peacefully, but not as a couple, this may be a good route for you to consider for a period of time. Not only will this allow you some time to get your finances in order, but it will also give you some time to deal with the emotions associated with divorce. By getting your emotions under control, you will be less likely to rush into a new housing decision that you might later regret.

Tip #4: Understand How Alimony Affects Your Loan Application

If you are receiving alimony, be aware that most lenders will not allow you to consider this money as part of your income until you have consistently received payments for at least six months. If you are paying alimony, understand that many lenders consider this to be a “debt” and, therefore, you will likely have more difficulty with obtaining a mortgage loan. Therefore, you may have to wait for a period of time following your divorce before you will be able to successfully obtain a new mortgage loan.

New Gadgets for Your Wish List

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As you think about gift-giving this season, don’t forget to give your new home a gift of its own. Advancements in technology mean that your home can be smarter, cleaner, cooler or the hottest thing on the market. Here are some ideas for you that are available now or may be coming on the market in the future. Get them on your wish list early.

Here are some ideas for you.

  • Floor plan light switch: This ingenious little device allows you to control the lighting for your entire homes from a single switch. The floor plan light switch designed by TaeWon Hwang for Yanko Design creates a floor plan of your home on a single panel, allowing you to choose from one location which rooms to light up and which to leave in the dark.
  • Transparent television: Have you ever wished that the television didn’t dominate the décor? Well, now you can have a television that doesn’t upstage the house. Designed by Michael Friebe for German television maker Loewe, and using technology that combines LCD and TOLED displays, the Invisio television is virtually clear when not in use, but offers full color viewing when activated.
  • Solar-powered media player: Named the Eclipse by maker Sony, this attractive gadget may block some of the light from your living room window, but that’s because it’s harnessing all that solar power to operate a wireless, environmentally friendly multi-media player. You can stream music, play podcasts, sync to your smartphone and other Bluetooth devices, all without using electricity.
  • Concerned about security? The iTouchless Bio-Matic Fingerprint Door Lock uses your fingerprint to lock and unlock your deadbolt. This system is perfect for single or multiple users with up to 150 unique fingerprints encoded. As a backup system, you can use a passcode too, and during power failures there are backup keys. These door locks are available now for both right-hand and left-hand doors.
  • If getting in shape is on your list, check out this elliptical-machine office desk: Paring an adjustable-height office desk with a semi-recumbent elliptical trainer, you can exercise and pay bills at the same time in your home office. The desk adjusts from 27″ to 47″ just by pressing a button, so you can switch from the trainer to your favorite office chair with ease. Average users could burn up to 4000 calories during the workweek and not skip a beat.
  • Want music to sing to in the shower? Check out the Kohler Moxie showerhead with wireless speaker. It can stream your playlists, news and other audios into your shower via Bluetooth. The water-resistant speaker is easily removable from the showerhead for recharging.

Need a house to be home to your tech gadgets?

We can help you find a home that is perfect for your level of techy-ness. Give us a call and we’ll help you find a home for the New Year.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Lighting a Fire in Your New Fireplace

Lighting a Fire in Your New Fireplace

As the weather chills, snow falls and socializing moves indoors, what could be more inviting than a warm cup of cocoa in front of a bright crackling fire? If your new home has a wood fireplace, here are some basics on fireplace care.

Hire a chimney sweep

Not just characters in Mary Poppins tales, chimney sweeps are professionals trained to protect your fireplace and your home from damage, debris and hazards. Certified chimney sweeps inspect your fireplace for damage to the brickwork and mortar, cracks in the tile flue liners, blockages such as bird, raccoon or squirrel nests, a build of leaves, soot, creosote and other potential causes of house fires and smoke damage.

  • Hire a chimney sweep before you light the first fire.
  • If your certified chimney sweep suggests repairs to your fireplace or chimney, do not ignore their advice.
  • Have your chimney inspected at least once a year.
  • Make sure smoke alarms are working correctly and have fresh batteries. You should have a smoke detector on every level of your home, inside each bedroom and outside the sleeping area. All alarms should be connected so that when one alarm is triggered, they all sound.
  • Test your carbon monoxide detector. If you do not have one, get one installed.
  • Install a chimney cap to keep birds and small debris out of the chimney and fireplace.
  • Keep the damper closed when the fireplace is not in use. Not only does this keep debris from falling into your fireplace, it keeps the heat from escaping through the flue.

Property lit fires

Once you know your fireplace is safe to use, learn how to light a fire. While you may find several “sure-fire” ways to do the job, make sure to follow all safety procedures when doing so.

  • Open the damper.
  • Prime the flue. If your chimney is on the outside of the house, you’ll need to warm it up before lighting the fire to avoid smoke descending into the room. If your fireplace has a gas pipe, turn on and light the gas for a few minutes until the flue warms and you feel the air drafting into and up the chimney before you add wood to the fire. If you do not have a gas starter, here are instructions for safely priming your flue.
  • Experts suggest building an “upside down” fire for a cleaner, longer lasting fire. To set up your upside down fire, stack larger fuel logs on the fire grate. Place smaller logs on top of these, and then place kindling and twigs on top of the stack. Lastly, top of your fire with balls of scrunched up newspaper or other tender. Light the fire from the top. As the paper burns, the smoke will exit the chimney while the paper lights the twigs and kindling. As the kindling forms coals, it will like the smaller logs and they in turn will light the larger logs.
  • Allow an ash bed to form under the grate. An inch or two of ash insulates your fireplace and keeps the fire burning hotter. However, don’t allow too much ash to build up, since that will dampen your fire and make it harder to light the next time.

Stay safe and warm

Enjoy your new fireplace, but stay safe as well. If you need recommendations for a professional chimney sweep, let us know.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Winterizing Your Vacant Home

Winterizing Your Vacant Home

Whether it is your summer vacation cottage, or your recently vacated home put up for sale, proper winterizing prevents your home from deteriorating while it’s empty and saves you money both now and later.

Make a list

Decide what needs to be done and make a list to check off as you do it. Be sure to add these areas to your list.

  • Plumbing: Turn off water at the exterior of your home. Make sure the lines completely drain by turning on all the taps until no more water comes out. Water remaining in the lines can freeze, causing your pipes to burst and resulting in very expensive repairs both to the pipes and to floor coverings and walls. Blow water from pipes using an air compressor. Pour RV-type anti-freeze in the traps. Close sink and tub drains to keep out critters and preventing odors. Cover the toilet bowl with plastic wrap to prevent sewer gasses from entering your home.
  • Appliances: Drain water from your dishwasher, washing machine and your refrigerator’s water lines. Remove your refrigerator’s water filter so that it does not freeze and break inside the refrigerator. Drain and turn off your water heater. If your power will be off, completely empty and clean your refrigerator, then prop the door open to prevent mold growth.
  • Utilities: If your home has power during the winter, set your thermostat low, but warm enough to prevent freezing and to keep your home dry so that mold does not grow. Also, unplug all appliances, including televisions and microwaves to prevent risk of fire from faulty wires.
  • Pests: Remember that mice and rats like warm places. They also like to gnaw on wires. If your home is prone to pests when it is empty, set out bait or traps, or consult a pest control professional. Remove any foods stored in boxes or bags, since pests can chew through the cardboard or plastic to get at the stale crackers or cereal inside.
  • Remove any liquids that might freeze. This includes bottled water, soda or beer in cans or bottles, and even paint.
  • Close flues and dampers, windows and vents. Seal any opening that might invite pests or the cold into your home.
  • Closing shutters or drapes will keep the sun from fading your carpet and protect your windows from inclement weather such as hail.
  • Wash linens and store them in plastic bags. The vacuum-sealed storage bags repel water, dirt and insects and protect your sheets, towels and blankets from mildew and mold.

If your home is for sale

When your vacant home is for sale, it is smart to leave the power on. If the home uses gas for heating, then be sure to leave the gas on as well. Buyers want to see the home, so if it is too cold or too dark, your home is less likely to sell. Check with us about managing your empty property.

Compliments of Virtual Results

The First Thanksgiving in Your New Home

 

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You’ve invited everyone to celebrate Thanksgiving with you in your new home … a joy-filled day with family and friends, good company, great food, celebrating old traditions and creating new ones!  The first holiday gathering in your new home celebrates more than the season, it celebrates the start of special memories in a new place.

To mark your first Thanksgiving in your new home, consider these ideas:

The Decor

Most likely, you’ve spent your decorating budget on long-term furnishings for your new place.

  • To add a little holiday panache, create a centerpiece of beeswax candles, gourds, mini pumpkins and dried leaves.
  • Or place some bare branches in a vase. Have everyone write something they’re thankful for on a paper leaf and tie it to the tree. As you gather for the meal, let everyone choose a leaf to read.
  • A floral basket with late blooms from you new backyard blend nicely with branches of dried berries and white pumpkins.

For more simple and beautiful centerpiece ideas, check out these great options or search on “thanksgiving decorations” on Pinterest to see what others are doing.

Realize, too, that your new home may be décor enough since many friends and family will be seeing it for the first time.

The Feast

Whether your plans include an elaborate spread or simpler fare, everyone loves to get involved. So, let Great Aunt Lydia bring her famous fruit salad, and let the kids make the green bean casserole. Part of the fun is in the doing and the best memories include both the old traditions and the new.

Speaking of new … try a simple new recipe like Sweet and White Mashed Potato Swirl, or an easy make-ahead fresh cranberry Jello salad or a cranberry mimosa. Simplify the day by making some of your meal in a slow-cooker. If you’re adventuresome, try a Cajun-style deep-fried turkey.

If your new home is smaller, consider serving buffet-style. If you live in a warmer clime, perhaps adding a portable outdoor heater can extend your dining area to the patio.

The best advice?

Enjoy the time with family and friends. Don’t make your menu so complex that all your attention is on the meal preparations instead of your guests. If there are ways to minimize the mess — foil pans, paper plates, etc. — and simplify the cleanup, so much the better. You don’t want to miss out on family tag football in your new backyard because you had dishes to do and pots to scrub.

Need a new home for the next holiday?

If you’re not yet in your new home, we can help you find one for the next holiday. Give us a call … we might even help you find a Black Friday special over the holiday weekend and get you well on your way to celebrating next Thanksgiving in your new place.

Compliments of Virtual Results