Category Around the House

Home Designs for Busy Families

With their calendars crammed with things to do and places to go, today’s busy families want to spend as little time as possible handling mundane household chores. To help families stay organized, newer homes are being built with customized floor plans to allow for more flexibility and better use of space. Here are a few examples of these home design trends.

Mudrooms

While mudrooms have been around for at least a decade, they have evolved into a larger, more centralized area for each member of the family, complete with individual cubbies for books and backpacks, drawers for hats and gloves, and a bench for removing wet shoes and boots.

Most mudrooms are 6 feet by 8 feet, although some can be as large as 8 feet by 12 feet, and some include USB outlets, walk-in closets and windows with natural light. These rooms once shared space with washers and dryers, but laundry machines have moved closer to the bedrooms where most dirty laundry collects, builders say.

Study/Computer Stations

Parents want to keep a close eye on their kids as they do their homework, but where that study space is located differs among households. In many homes, kitchen islands double as a study area as well as an area for cooking and eating. Other homes are built with study nooks on the upper floor, a separate study in the lower level or a pocket office located off the kitchen.

Self-Serve Kitchens

Newer homes are designed with the kitchen or pantry set up so family members can grab their own meals while on the go. These self-serve areas are located away from the main food prep area and are equipped with a mini refrigerator or refrigerator drawer to hold fruit and snacks, and a micro- wave at child-sized height for easy access.

Home design features like these can help today’s families stay organized as they go through their busy lives.

CRS Your Home Newsletter, March 2015

Accessorize It

If your home decor seems stuck in a rut, updating your accessories can bring more spice to your living space. When accessorizing your home, follow these simple tips and tricks from HGTV and HouseBeautiful.com.

Highlight a Few Favorite Accessories at One Time. While it’s fun to collect different styles of pillows, artwork and collectables, displaying them all at one time can overwhelm the room. Try showing only 20 percent of your prized accessories at a given time and change them regularly throughout the year.

Highlight a Focal Point in the Room. Perhaps you have a uniquely designed fireplace mantel or a treasured area rug that you want to showcase. Select a piece of artwork to complement the rug, or display a few photographs of your favorite figurines along the mantel.

Choose a Color Scheme and Theme. Before buying accessories, decide on one or two colors that will ad visual interest to each room and complement your furniture and wall colors. If your furniture and walls are neutral, choose bold colors for your accessories to create a vibrant look. Accessories can also play up a theme of a room.

Group Similar Items. To create a consistent, balanced look, display accessories in small groupings. Some designers work by the rule of three. For example, a trio of matching mirrors lined up on the wall with a contrasting background can provide a dramatic focal point.

Light Up Your Space. Create instant impact by choosing light fixtures that complement the design style of the room. To create a certain mood, use wall scones, and extravagant chandelier or recessed lighting.

With the right accessories, your home can go from stale to stunning in no time.

CRS Your Home Newsletter, January/February 2016

Home Work

According to a recent study by Telework Research Network, 30 million people work from home at least once a week, and that number is expected to grow by 63 percent over the next five years. While dedicating an entire room for a home office is ideal, it’s not always practical. With smaller laptops and office furnishings and Wi-Fi connections, work areas can be set up anywhere in the home. Before setting up a workspace at home, here are a few ideas to consider.

Reliable power. Many older homes may not have sufficient power or may lack grounded outlets. An electrician can do a wiring inspection and upgrade outlets and circuits as needed. A strong Internet connection is also important. Make sure your DSL or cable modem is functioning well and can handle a demanding workload.

Adequate storage. Storage solutions don’t have to be fancy or expensive, but they do need to be tailored to hold everything you need, including reference books, office supplies and files.

Sufficient lighting. Tasks like reading or drafting require lighting that shines directly on the work. For task lighting, use energy-efficient, long-lasting LEDs and a dimmer switch to control levels.

Work surface. The type of work you do will determine the size of work surface you need. A longer, wider area is better for spreading out papers, while a smaller desk may work best for reading documents and making phone calls. If you use a printer every day, place it within easy reach.

Seating. If you sit for long periods, invest in an ergonomic chair. Though it may cost more, it can provide better comfort and support for your back.

CRS Your Home Newsletter, January/February 2016

Common Scents

There is a strong connection between smells and human emotions. Given that homebuying can be a very emotional process, you’ll want to make sure home looks and smells good to appeal to more buyers. Make sure your home passes the smell test by following these tips from HGTV.
If there are any foul odors in your home, don’t just cover them up by baking cookies — try to identify the source and focus on eliminating the odors. Old carpets are often the biggest culprit. If you don’t have the time or budget to replace old rugs with new carpet or hardwood floors, wash the carpet with mild detergent soap and water solution, then go over it with a damp towel to neutralize the odor. And open the windows on opposite walls to circulate fresh air.
After you’ve rid your home of bad scents or if you just want to fill it with more pleasant smells, consider boiling fruit peels, spices or herbs in water. Rather than throwing away lemon or orange peels, boil water and let the peels sit for a few minutes, adding water every half hour or so. You can also mix the peels with other soothing scents. Using oils such as sandalwood, lavender, tea tree and eucalyptus can be therapeutic and inviting.

CRS Your Home Newsletter – March, 2013

Holiday Home Selling Tips

Were you considering putting your house on the market but waited until after the holidays because you weren’t sure how to handle decorating and winter landscape?  Here are some helpful tips to help you prepare for the next holiday season if you are  considering selling.

There are a few advantages to selling your home during the holidays. Buyers shopping for homes this time of year tend to be more serious, and because fewer homes may be on the market, there’s less competition. Frontdoor.com offers several tips to attract buyers during this busy season.

Don’t go overboard on holiday decorations. Large decorations can make your home seem smaller and they can distract buyers. If you choose to decorate, opt for fewer and smaller items with a general winter theme.

Hire a reliable real estate agent. Ask family and friends to recommend a Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) agent who will work hard for you during the holiday season.

Seek motivated buyers. Individuals shopping for a home during the holidays must be highly motivated. Target buyers who need to move soon, such as people relocating for jobs, college students and university staff on break, and investors on tax deadlines.

Price the property to sell. No matter what time of year it is, a home that’s priced appropriately for the market will attract buyers.

Pay attention to curb appeal. Maintaining your home’s exterior is just as important in the winter as it is during any other season. Touch up the paint, clean the gutters and spruce up the yard. Also keep buyers’ safety in mind by keeping stairs and walkways clear of snow, ice and leaves.

Make your home cozy and inviting. When showing your home, crank up the heat, play soft music and offer homemade holiday treats. It will encourage buyers to spend more time in the home, which gives them a chance to admire its best features.

CRS Your Home Newsletter, December 2013

Curbing the Winter Blahs

While the weather outside might be frightful, your home’s curb appeal can still be delightful. The following ideas from HGTV.com can help make your home stand out even when it’s cold and gray outside.

Clean the gutters. Clogged gutters can cause water damage to your home, create ice dams that can damage gutters and attract pests.

Keep visitors safe. Clear the walkways, driveway and stairs of snow and ice so prospective buyers can make it to your front door without slipping.

Provide proper lighting. As the days get shorter, it gets darker earlier. Lights can illuminate the path to the front door, and sconces or lanterns on each side of the door can give buyers a warm welcome.

Colorize the exterior. Bare trees won’t hide your home’s faded or chipped paint, so five your home a fresh coat. A front door painted in a bright color can make it stand out amidst the gray landscape.

Use winter decorations wisely. Keep holiday decorations to a minimum, and use them to show off your home’s best features. A string of white lights around the windows can make your home look festive.

Bring out the green. Evergreen trees and cold-weather plants, such as pansies and witch hazel, can liven up a dreary landscape.

By following these simple tips, your home can make a great first impression in any season.

CRS Your Home Newsletter, November/December 2015

Don’t Ruin Their Holiday

It’s easy to overlook our furry companions during the rush of seasonal celebrations. The holidays can be disruptive to pets’ routines, so it’s important to keep their eating and exercise habits to a normal schedule, according to the American Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). The following tips can help keep pets out of harm’s way during the holidays.

Anchor the Christmas tree so it doesn’t tip and fall over, injuring your pet. This will also prevent the tree water, which may contain poisonous fertilizers, from spilling. Also keep wires, batteries and ornaments out of paws’ reach so pets don’t get hurt.

Consider decorating the tree with bows or strands of popcorn, ribbon or garland. Avoid shiny strands of tinsel that can be tantalizing to cats, but also dangerous. One small nibble can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting and dehydration.

Fresh holly and mistletoe might appear harmless, but when ingested, pets can suffer nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Instead, choose colorful, artificial plants made from silk or plastic.

Don’t leave lighted candles unattended. Pets can accidentally burn themselves or cause a fire if they knock candles over. Place candles in appropriate holders on a stable surface, and extinguish them when exiting the room.

With so much activity going on, give your dog or cat a quiet place to retreat to, complete with fresh water, their favorite toy and snack, and a place to snuggle.

CRS Your Home Newsletter, November/December 2015

Guest List

The holidays bring food, gifts, good times — and guests. Hosting houseguests can be joyful and stressful, but you can minimize the hassle with thoughtful planning and preparation. Consider these tips from Real Simple and Woman’s Day.

Get your house in order. Cut out any unnecessary drama by discussing — and approving — houseguests (who, how many and for how long) with your spouse and the rest of your household well before anyone arrives on your doorstep. Next, ensure you have adequate space for the number of guests you’ll have. Sleeping arrangements will be different depending on your guests’ situations. For example, young children may need to sleep in the same room as their parents, so you might want to provide a futon or air mattress.

Stock your kitchen. Avoid the stress of creating daytime meals on the fly by stashing a few easily defrosted dishes that guests can help themselves to throughout the day, such as lasagna or baked mac ’n’ cheese. And be sure to set a specific dinner- time so everyone can plan accordingly. For breakfast, opt for small baskets of muffins or bagels with jellies and butter, and keep a pot of hot coffee with ample supplies of cream and sugar so that guests can wake up and feed themselves at their own pace.

Don’t forget about it. Help your guests settle in by stocking up on the often-forgotten necessities, such as toothbrushes, travel-sized toothpaste and shower products, disposable razors and makeup-remover wipes. Equip each bed- room with extra linens, and add a scented candle or two to make rooms feel like a posh hotel.

CRS Your Home Newsletter, November, 2012

Season Pass

The weather may not be as chilly in California or Florida as it is in New York or Wisconsin, but getting your home ready for a new season is still a good idea. Put these “winterizing” tips from MSN Real Estate on your to-do list.

Clean your gutters.  Autumn leaves are pretty, but once they fall, they can reveal their ugly side — by contributing to clogged gutters. Neglecting your gutters can eventually cause water to seep into your home. Rid gutters of leaves and other debris by hand (be sure to wear thick gloves) or with a scraper and rinse with a powerful hose to ensure proper drainage.

Plug leaks.  Avoid leaks from rain or snowstorms with a simple maneuver. On a windy day, walk around the inside of your home with a lit incense stick or candle and hold it near commonly drafty areas—windows, door frames, electrical outlets — and apply caulk or other sealants to gaps. For more protection against the elements, install storm windows or buy a window insulator kit (about $5 per window) for a cheaper fix.

Bundle up.  Insulation, no matter where you live, is a necessity. Experts say that regardless of where you call home, attics should contain a minimum of 12 inches of insulation. Ensure that your insulation is adequate to help you avoid wasted money in heating or energy bills.

CRS Your Home Newsletter, November, 2012

Universal Appeal

As more homeowners choose to live in their homes longer as they age, many of them are improving their space with universal design features to help them live more comfortably. Before making any improvements, the National Aging in Place Council outlines the most common universal design modifications.

Are the entryways accessible? Adding a ramp or constructing no- step entries can help those confined to a wheelchair or who have trouble climbing stairs. Open floor plans and wider hallways make everyone feel less cramped and allow people to move around easily. Wider doorways provide easier access to other parts of the home and enable people to move large items in and out of the house.

To improve safety in bathrooms, install grab bars and elevated toilets. Make sure there’s enough turnaround space for someone in a wheelchair, and consider lowering the bathroom sink and adding a roll-in shower with multiple showerheads. A non-slip floor and shower surface will help everyone stay on their feet. In the master bedroom, consider reconfiguring an existing walk-in closet or building a new one with storage at different heights.

In the kitchen, lower cooking surfaces and countertops built at varying heights will appeal to home cooks who have difficulty bending over or have height limitations. Wall ovens and microwaves should be mounted at reachable heights, and storage and shelf space should be abundant and accessible.

Well-placed skylights and ceiling lights will aid those with poor vision and make the home more personable and safe. Installing rocker switches and door leverhandles can aid people with poor hand strength as well as those carrying groceries into the house.

A universally-designed home provides smart solutions for everyday living that everyone can enjoy.

CRS Your Home Newsletter, October 2012

Shaping Up At Home

A home gym may be a practical alternative for people who can’t afford a club membership, are short on time or don’t have access to a health club. With so many types of equipment available, it might be overwhelming to know what to buy for a home gym. These simple steps from Shape Magazine and the American Council on Exercise can guide you in the right direction.

Start by finding a location for your home gym. If you don’t have a spare bedroom, basement or back porch, designate a corner of the home, such as the living room. Make the space as light and airy as possible. Natural lighting from windows and doors work best, but if there are few windows, add recessed lighting or a few lamps with soft white bulbs to provide the light you need.

Full-length mirrors on one wall can not only make the space appear larger, they can be used to monitor proper form during workouts. Bring in a few plants, such as ferns, spider plants and bamboo palms, to boost oxygen levels and naturally purify the air.

Even equipment designed for home use can take more room than you have. Equipment can take up as little as 10 square feet for a bike or 30 square feet for a treadmill, while a multi-station gym may require up to 200 square feet. If the space doesn’t allow for a treadmill and multi-gym, opt for a space-saving rack of dumbbells and several easily storable items such as a jump rope, resistance bands, stability ball and yoga mat.

Start by adding a few pieces of equipment and gradually build up the home gym over time. In no time, your body and bank account will thank you.

CRS Your Home Newsletter, October 2012

App Picking

There’s an app for that.” Tired of hearing that phrase? Well, don’t knock it just yet. When you’re shopping for a home, you’ll want to know the apps that will lead you to the next open house. Consider these tips from AOL Real Estate and CNET.

For starters, real estate websites, such as Zillow, Redfin and Trulia, have free apps with many of the sites’ functions. You can search addresses, contact REALTORS®, and find the estimated value of homes.

Homesnap (iOS, free) is another tool on the scene. Take a photo within the app when you’re passing by a home to get the list price, square footage, number of bedrooms, heating and air conditioning systems, local schools and estimated taxes.

If you’re looking for a home in a specific area, try the REALTOR.com Real Estate App (Andriod, IOS; free) Area Highlighter feature. You can customize the search area by drawing the boundaries directly on the map.

And once you’ve started your search, keep track of the houses and wish list features you like with CrumbTracks’ (iOS, $1.99). Create files—with notes and photos—for each one.

The Home Buying Power app (iOS, $1.99) can help you calculate your down payment, ideal monthly payment, closing costs and more.

And, if you’re just looking to do some home improvements, there’s an app for that, too. Try Photo Measures (iOS, $5.99), which gives you accurate dimensions of rooms and lets you include design notes.

CRS Your Home Newsletter, September 2013