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When shopping for a new home, be aware of properties that have potential beyond their current appearance. Home buyers often overlook a great property because they are too focused on the cosmetic appeal, which can be easily altered. Keep the following tips in mind as you search for your perfect home:


1. Finding the Best Neighbourhood for You


Location is one of the most crucial factors to consider as you look for possible homes. Unlike the style and even structure, no amount of time, effort, or money can change a home’s location. To find the best neighbourhood for you, it can help to visit the area multiple times at various hours. This will help reveal the local culture and activity to be expected from neighbours.


2. Identify a Cost-Efficient Fixer-Upper Home


Look for a home with sound fundamentals and an appealing floor plan. Cosmetic improvements like new paint, lighting fixtures, and flooring are relatively cheap and easy to change, while work on plumbing, electrical systems, structural walls, or cabinets are more difficult and expensive. Typically, the most expensive change involves altering a home’s structure.


3. Hire a Contractor Before Buying a Home


You may want to hire a contractor in your search if you know you want to make changes to a home you plan to purchase. A contractor can help you better understand what kind of commitment a given home will require. Many remodelers will visit a potential purchase to give an estimate of how much the work would cost. This is valuable information when comparing different homes with one another.


4. Know What to Check Before Buying an Old Home


Examining a home can be a complex process, and looking for one with unused potential can make it more difficult. Keep in mind that homes older than 50 years are likely to have similarly aged plumbing, electrical, heating, and other systems. The home may also be worn out or too outdated to remodel.


5. Real Estate Agents Can Help


Real estate agents are valuable resources. They can help you understand a home in the context of its neighbourhood and area, and may be able to offer advice on how to increase the value of the property after purchase.

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With many of us confined to staying at home during the current global pandemic, now could be the ideal time to embark on a DIY home design overhaul. Of course, transforming a tired living space into one that’s timelessly stylish and effortlessly practical comes with a number of cumulative costs, but there are plenty of ways to save money along the way.


1. Refresh areas with a new feature wall


Giving any area of your home a fresh coat of paint is a quick, affordable and satisfying way to make tired spaces feel brand new with minimal effort. However, you can make this transformation even simpler by focusing on just one wall and making it the stand-out feature.


Feature walls are a tried and tested interior design trick to instantly add interest and character to almost any room of the house – and by focusing your efforts on just one wall, you’ll also be keeping the costs down.


Whether you paint one wall in a bright hue, add some funky wallpaper or get creative with artwork and old picture frames to create an eye-catching gallery wall, putting your efforts into updating just one surface will save you time and dollars.


2. Upcycle fittings and furniture rather than replacing 


Upcycling has been a popular interior trend for some time now and for good reason. For one, it helps reduce the amount of discarded furniture and fittings needlessly ending up in landfill. Secondly, it also offers the chance to create truly unique home furnishings while also helping to declutter your home – a win for you and the planet!


With the right mindset and the help of some video tutorials or Pinterest, you can create new pieces from old things you were planning to throw away in no time at all. This could be as simple as fixing that wobbly table leg and repainting it, using silverware to reinvent old light fittings into quirky lampshades or spray-painting a time-worn bike and hanging it on your wall as a piece of art – the possibilities are limitless.


3. Create the illusion of space with mirrors


If you’re looking to make your home feel bigger, but don’t have the budget to extend its physical blueprint, then mirrors are a trusty accessory to have up your sleeve. When hung in the right position, mirrors have the ability to reflect light around the room, add depth, and give the illusion of space when there actually isn’t any.


With the added benefit of being readily available to buy in a vast array of designs, sizes and price points, incorporating mirrors into your interior decor is an effective and budget-friendly tactic for making even the coziest spaces feel grand.


For the best results, hang mirrors opposite or adjacent to windows or an artificial light source to maximize the light bouncing around the room – leaving you with a room that feels spacious and bright. You could even get creative and use multiple mirrors hung on the same wall in different designs and sizes to deliver a striking feature wall that serves to enlarge the area.


4. Opt for multifunctional furniture


Splashing out on new furniture for your home is a sure-fire way to give outdated interiors a much-needed new look, but this can be an expensive undertaking if you’re buying numerous furniture items that each serve a single purpose.


Instead, make your money stretch that little bit further and invest in multifunctional pieces that can double up as extra storage space or additional seating. Think ottoman beds with storage space below for stowing away extra cushions, bed linen and more, blanket boxes that double up as extra seating and storage units, nesting tables that can be split up to give extra surface space when you need it or even floor lamps with built-in shelves.


By making the most of multifunctional furniture in your home you can still achieve your desired aesthetic, while saving on space and money.


5. Get wooden floors for less


If you long for hardwood floors in your home but don’t have the capital to spend on the real deal, you don’t need to abandon that dream. Opting for alternatives like luxury vinyl tile flooring or click-and-lock laminate will give you an authentic, luxury looking wooden floor at a far lower price point.


Choosing wood-look alternatives like LVT flooring also come with a raft of practical benefits. They’re waterproof, easy to clean, durable and low maintenance, meaning they’ll stay looking pristine for years without the need to reapply varnish periodically.


Whatever grand plans you have for giving your home a makeover, we hope the above gives you plenty of ideas on how to make the right changes without breaking the bank.



Source: Coldwell Banker Blue Matter

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Contrary to what you might think, you don’t need acres of counter space or dozens of drawers and cupboards to have an organized kitchen that’s a joy to cook in. If anything, a smaller kitchen can encourage you to streamline your stuff and live more simply. Who wants cabinets chock-full of unloved pasta machines and dusty bread makers anyway? Check out these easy ways to restore order to your less-than-enormous kitchen.


1. Start with a utensil rack. Not only will it give you a place to hang slotted spoons and ladles for easy access while cooking, it will also free up precious drawer space.


Even in the tiniest kitchen, you can usually find somewhere to squeeze one in — under a cupboard or shelf or above the stove. Stainless steel models work in most styles of rooms and are easy to wipe down.


2. Get a knife holder. A knife block or magnetic rack is one of those simple items that really do make a difference in how functional your kitchen is. After all, rummaging around in a drawer for a piece of kitchen gear you use frequently is time-consuming and dispiriting.


A wall-mounted rack keeps things orderly without swallowing too much space. Buy decent knives if you can afford it, as they should last a lifetime. One advantage of a magnetic rack is that you can slowly build up your collection of knives, buying one at a time, rather than having to invest in one large block complete with knives, which can be pricey. If you’re starting from scratch, a bread knife, paring knife and chef’s knife are essential.


3. Assign dedicated storage areas. Kitchen clutter can easily accrue, so it makes sense to assign different cupboards a specific purpose and stick to it. And dedicate a few minutes every couple of weeks to returning stray plastic lids or pot covers to their homes and sweeping out spilled spices and coffee grounds — it really will make a difference in how pleasurable (and easy) your kitchen is to use day to day.


4. Reduce your numbers. If your kitchen is really mini, or even if it isn’t, think about doing a good edit of your paraphernalia. Be honest: Do you really need more than a handful of plates, mugs or glasses if there are only one or two of you?


Having less stuff can be immensely freeing — and will significantly reduce the amount of time you spend washing up, which is a big bonus.


5. Gather and display. You can be organized and chic at the same time. A charming crock to hold wooden spoons, a wall-mounted crate or two to provide a home for vintage-style scales and jugs, a small wall-mounted spice rack — they all add a pretty touch as well as having a practical function.


6. Be clever with your cabinets. Use every spare inch in a small kitchen by building recessed shelves where feasible. Surround an integrated refrigerator. With this design solution, wall space that’s too skinny or awkwardly shaped for extra cabinets can still be used to hold frequently used items. In some kitchens, it also helps open up the room and leads the eye to an appealing feature.


7. Go minimal. Are you in the process of picking new cabinets for your compact kitchen? Consider this look: Ultra-plain, handleless cabinets in a nude hue are soothing to look at and give a sense of visual order. Pick a seamless backsplash such as a slab of marble, since tiles with grout can look busy.


8. Get in a tight corner. When space is tight, an ingenious trio of pullout corner drawers is a lifesaver, helping to solve the problem of lost space in those awkward-to-access base cabinets.


If you’re remodeling, think about how you’d use such drawers — for cutlery, towels, pans, dishes? You could do a slimmer top drawer complemented by two deeper ones, so all the bases are covered.


9. Put the pans away. Similarly a pullout pan rack can be a gift in a small kitchen, creating an organized home for frying pans and saucepans and keeping you from tearing your hair out as you hunt around in the backs of cupboards. Also try using racks for items such as steamers or large, unwieldy casserole dishes.


10. Organize inside. It may sound like a no-brainer, but often what makes a kitchen, big or small, organized is how we arrange the insides of our cupboards. Shelf and drawer dividers, hooks, racks and other storage devices are key to keeping order. Consider what works for you and go custom if you can. Are you a Mason jar and Tupperware kind of person? Do you prefer mugs on hooks, shelves or in drawers? Storage is often about personal preference.  Slim slots for chopping boards and placemats are a brilliant idea, as is a slim pullout spice rack.



Source: Coldwell Banker Blue Matter

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How much time and money do you want to spend on landscaping? If it’s not a lot, steer away from water-gulping flowers and high-maintenance shrubs. Instead, look at creating a landscape with low maintenance plants that you can tend to on a biweekly or monthly basis.


Plants to Consider


Focus on adding plants that don’t require a lot of watering, pruning, trimming, and mulching. Some to consider include:

  • Thyme
  • Daylilies
  • Hydrangea
  • Lavender
  • Roses
  • Peony
  • Hawthorn

The key is to get more perennials than annuals, if possible, into your garden. Find varieties that will thrive in your local climate and the shading or sunlight conditions of the space. If you choose perennials that bloom from spring into fall, you can enjoy colorful blooms throughout most of the year.


Drought-tolerant perennials might be the best option if you live in a particularly hot climate. They’re good for keeping your water bills down and meeting any water restrictions during the summer. If you need more ideas for a low maintenance landscape, talk to a local gardener.


Additional Steps to Take


If you don’t have the budget or time to invest in a lot of new plants, focus on how you can rearrange or adapt the garden you have. Some options may be to:


1. Group plants of the same type: To cut down on watering, trimming, and mulching time, group plants that need the same kind of maintenance. This lessens the amount of time and resources you need to spread across the garden.


2. Create borders: Building brick borders around your flowers and shrubs can create an attractive separation between the shrubbery and grass. This can be done professionally, or you can buy the materials yourself and do it over a weekend.


3. Apply mulch: Laying mulch around your plants, and on top of the soil that covers their roots, keeps out weeds, helps them retain moisture and adds to the natural nutrients they receive. Mulch can also be used as a decorative border.


4. Install automatic irrigation: An automatic irrigation system will save you time watering the garden. You can program sprinklers to go off at certain times, which prevents you from having to replace dead plants down the road.


5. Consider rocks instead: Rather than spending money on high water bills and replacing plants every year, consider xeriscaping your yard. Rock gardens with a few plants spread out across them are just as beautiful, especially in drought-susceptible regions.


Conclusion


Whether you decide to rearrange your current garden or spend a little extra money replacing some annuals with perennial alternatives, there are plenty of ways to create a low maintenance landscape that will save you time and reduce your monthly water bills. Don’t let your garden suffer because you didn’t consider an alternate plan.


Source: Coldwell Banker Blue Matter


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Home improvement projects (big or small), have a reputation for helping boost the value of your home and make it more attractive to a larger pool of potential home buyers. From DIY projects like changing out old hardware to updating carpeting or hardwood floors – there are several small and inexpensive improvements you can make prior to putting your home on the market.


Curb Appeal:


We all know that first impressions are key – this applies to your homes as well. If your lawn is disheveled, and the doors and fixtures look worn or damaged, it can really turn off potential buyers from seeing the rest of the property. Keeping a manicured lawn is a good step, but let’s take it a bit further.


Garage doors make up a pretty big chunk of your curb appeal, the garage is known as the smile of your home, a nice update can easily and quickly make a home more attractive. Whether it’s giving it a wash, a fresh coat of paint, or replacing it altogether, there are many options to make it “new.”  


The front door is equally as important, a newly painted front door is paramount. Couple that with updated house numbers and mailbox and you’re already starting off on the right foot.


Fresh walls and floors:


There’s no denying that a fresh coat of paint can instantly transform a room to give it a brighter, fresher look and best of all, it’s relatively inexpensive. Similarly, floors (whether hardwood or carpeted) can have a significant impact on the overall feel of the home. Often, it’s these smaller upgrades that give you the best bang for your buck. Painting the kitchen walls, putting in a new vinyl floor in the bathroom, or replacing carpeting in parts of the home will typically get you additional dollars back.


Depersonalize and Declutter:


This one is a zero-cost no-brainer. You want the potential buyers to focus on the amazing features of your home and not be fixated on the family photos, or other miscellaneous items you may have around. And if you’re already thinking of panting, this makes it that much easier.


When you go to repaint a home, naturally, you have to take things off of the walls, move furniture, etc. There’s no better time to depersonalize and declutter. You will have to pack up most of your belongings anyways, so why not start sooner than later?


Update hardware:


Changing cabinet hardware is very cheap and easy for DIY. Changing out old hardware in commonly used spaces like the kitchen, master or guest bathrooms makes a world of a difference and can only take a few hours of work to complete. New finishes can make even the most outdated cabinets look more polished and modernized. 


Staging:


Though not a “home improvement” project in a traditional sense, staging your home very much plays into giving your home an overall, elevated look which you can also do on a budget. Focus on the main rooms: living, dining, kitchen, master bed and bath. Purchasing a new comforter, adding some neutral accents and even some extra pillows, people like homes that feel carefree, fresh, like walking into a fancy hotel room. Additionally, consider rearranging your furniture; it can make the space feel new and create a much better flow throughout the house.  



Source: Coldwell Banker Blue Matter

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Just a few short weeks ago, “spring cleaning” meant taking advantage of the longer days to dust off your home and make it nice and shiny for the warmer months. Today, we’re living a new reality. 


The COVID-19 pandemic has brought us all together. We are sharing the collective experience of being at home, doing our utmost to stay healthy and making sure we are doing our part to flatten the curve to keep entire communities safe. Since many of us are at home full-time, it is vital that we ensure our environment is safe and virus-free. Staying home and staying clean & disinfected is how we are going to flatten the curve and keep us all safe.


The media has been sharing daily guidelines and our inboxes have been filled with long messages about what businesses and services are doing to protect us. It is overwhelming! So, let’s throw out the complicated and keep it simple. 


Here are the 5 things you can do to help keep the coronavirus from living in your home: 


1. Supplies: Before you get started, give your cleaning supplies an overhaul. Spring cleaning in 2020 requires different equipment to keep your home virus-free:

  • Gloves: Disposable gloves are recommended, but if you don’t have any just be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before and after you clean. And, remember not to touch your face. Gloves should be discarded after each cleaning. Wash your hands before gloves are applied and immediately after gloves are removed.
  • No more brushes & mops: Brushes and mops might spread the contagions. You can use a cloth or towel if you wash them in hot water and soap when you are finished.
  • Disinfecting wipes & spray (at least 70% alcohol, most EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective.)

2. Clean AND Disinfect: Cleaning is the act of removing contaminants from a surface. Disinfecting is the use of chemicals to kill germs on surfaces.

  • First, clean surfaces by wiping them with soapy water or a cleaning spray and a hand towel.
  • Second, disinfect with disinfecting wipes or disinfectant spray. DO NOT dry the disinfectant with a towel, let it air dry. This is important when fully disinfecting!

3. High-touch Surfaces: The CDC recommends cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces daily in your home. These surfaces include: 

  • Doorknobs
  • Light switches
  • Refrigerator and microwave doors
  • TV remote
  • Electronics (keyboards, phone etc.)
  • Counters and tabletops where you cook and eat
  • Toilet & faucet handles

4. Laundry: For clothing, towels, linens and other items that go in the laundry it is important to take these extra steps:

  • Do not shake dirty laundry. This will minimize the possibility of dispersing virus through the air.
  • Use the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely.
  • Clean and disinfect hampers according to guidance above for surfaces.
  • Wear disposable gloves when handling dirty laundry from an ill person and then discard or launder the gloves after each use.

5. Enter with Care: Now that your home is disinfected, when you return home from getting essentials: take off your shoes, hang up your coat (away from other clothing) and, immediately, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. Also, consider changing your clothes into clean ones.


Follow these 5 steps religiously to drastically reduce the risk of COVID-19 living in your home. Together, we will get through this uncertain time. Cleaning and disinfecting will help you be in control. And, the good news is we have the time at home to do it. Stay clean, stay calm and stay kind!



Source: Coldwell Banker Blue Matter


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Designing a floor plan in your new home is a step that is frequently overlooked. However, it is essential to create a floor plan for your new home before you move.  Not only is it the step that saves you money on moving day, it also transforms a new house into your new home.


If you have a plan for where each piece of furniture will be placed in your new home, you will save time and money on moving day. The movers will not be rearranging your furniture for hours while on the clock. Sadly, the easy act of creating a floor plan before a move is a rarity. If you are not an interior designer it can be extremely challenging to know how to create a floor plan and envision a layout for your new home.

Here are seven steps to create a well-designed floor plan:

1. Edit

Edit your furniture. Move only pieces you love and use. Now is the time to get rid of furniture. You want your new home to look open and feel fresh. Give items that you no longer love to the Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, a family member, or sell at a consignment store.

2. Measure

Once edited, measure your key pieces. You don’t need to measure every piece of furniture, just the large items like sofas, beds and main tables.

3. Take a Field Trip 

With furniture measurements in hand, take a trip to your new home. Stand in each room and think about how you are going to use each space. Rooms will be used more often if they have multiple purposes. For instance, a living room can be both for entertaining and a family game room, and a guest room can double as a home office.

4. Don’t Rush

Walk around the new home. Experience the light in each room at different times of the day and if possible on different days. Think about how you want to use each room and what will be the focal point of each room.

5. Take Note

Once you have a purpose and a feel for each room, it’s time to make a sketch. Draw a rough sketch of the room and jot down measurements. Note locations of electrical outlets, windows, light switches, chandeliers. This information will help you place furniture and décor later. Be sure to measure the path of entry to be sure big furniture items will fit through doorways, halls, and stairs.

6. Play & Design

Another way to get ready for the move is to make templates of the large furniture pieces on butcher-block paper. Move the templates around and play with them, rearranging them in different places of the room, until you find a layout that feels right. Then adjust to these pro rules:

 - Think about where you want to look in each room. At the fireplace, the view, TV? Face the furniture to work with this focal point.

 - Figure out where you want the bigger pieces and then build around them.

 - If you can, place dressers in the bedroom closets to open up space in the bedroom.

 - Leave an open welcoming path into each room. For example, do not have the back of a sofa facing the entrance to a living room.

 - Think about seat heights. A dining chair is taller than a lounge chair. You want chairs and a sofa to be at the same level in a sitting area.

 - Leave at least 18 inches to walk around beds. If guest rooms are not large, a queen bed will make the room appear bigger.

 - Use rugs to define areas. For instance, define a reading space in the living room with a separate rug. Be sure to make note of where rugs go so the movers can lay them down first in the correct locations.

7. Sketch & Post

Now that you have figured out where you want each large piece of furniture, complete your sketches. Tape the drawings of each room layout in the rooms. The movers will know where to place the furniture.


Congrats, you have a plan and the fun part is just beginning! At the end of move day, you will be walking into a home that fits you. The furniture staples will be placed just where you want and need them and now you get to add the décor accents! Furniture is like a wardrobe, dress it up with seasonal throw pillows, side tables, and other accessories. You want to feel happy when you walk into each room. With the layout done now you can make your new home your happy place.



Source: Coldwell Banker Blue Matter



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When it comes time to sell your home, you need to keep one thing in mind: buyers don’t want to see or feel you in the house. What we mean is that buyers are looking for a blank slate that they can envision making their very own. They don’t want your family pictures, unique style, or lived-in look. Instead, they want a house that represents endless opportunities.

How do you make this happen? How do you get YOU out of the house when staging a home for sale? Think about giving your home a hotel vibe. It’s one of the most successful ideas because it’s all about making your home into anyone’s house. Staging your home so that it feels like a hotel will help you sell it faster and for more money. But what does this look like?  To ensure you have that hotel vibe, you’ll need to go through your home room-by-room and focus on a few key areas.

Make a Glamorous Entrance

The entrance of your home is your one and only chance to make a great first impression, so you’ll want to make your entrance look and feel like a hotel lobby. If you have room, consider adding an elegant table with artfully arranged flowers. You’ll also want to keep it clear of clutter to ensure that it creates a welcoming feeling.

Create Plush and Lush Bedrooms

Bedrooms are typically the most personal rooms in a home, and so, they should be depersonalized as much as possible. Remove all personal items from dressers and nightstands. It’s even a good idea to half-empty your closet so that it looks neat, clean, and larger than normal.

In addition to cleaning up, you’ll also want to transform your bedroom with plush bedding that’s reminiscent of a hotel room. Think white linens with throw pillows and crisp lines. It should feel like a hotel room from the moment they walk in the door.

Clean Up the Bathrooms

Just as with the bedrooms, the bathrooms should sparkle and shine. You don’t want potential buyers to walk into your bathroom and think anything other than, “This looks wonderful.”

When staging your home for sale, your bathrooms should look brand new. This means emptying out cabinets and drawers of any toiletries and miscellaneous items. You should also allow a small budget for repainting, changing out old fixtures, and resurfacing countertops.

As for the towels and décor, only use brand new items that are perfectly spotless and would look appropriate in a hotel. Every bathroom should feel like an oasis.

Focus on the Kitchen

All successful ideas start in the kitchen. That’s because a kitchen, if done beautifully, can get you more than your asking price while an ignored kitchen can kill a sale just as quickly.

The good news is that updating your kitchen doesn’t require a complete remodel. Small changes can make a big difference. To get started:

· Remove clutter from countertops until they’re completely clear.

· Clean all appliances and replace old, worn-out equipment.

· Clear all dishes and keep them neatly stacked out of sight.

· Organize every single drawer, removing extra items.

· Empty out the pantry and fridge until only a few food staples remain in neat rows.

Clean and de-clutter your kitchen until it wouldn’t look out of place on a food show. Only then are you ready to put your house up for sale.

Tips and Tricks for Overall Décor

What about the rest of your house? There are quite a few things you can do to create that hotel vibe everywhere.

Bring in Light: Maximize the light throughout your home by removing drapes, cleaning windows, changing lampshades, and increasing bulb wattage.

Choose the Right Colours: Don’t slather your walls and furniture with bright, bold colours. Instead, follow the examples of upscale hotels with neutral palettes of warm gray, taupe, brown, and even black.

Create More Space: Add large mirrors and use appropriately proportioned furniture to create the illusion of more space in tight quarters.

Don’t Forget the Exterior: Don’t forget the outside of your home. Transform your back deck into a cozy outdoor living area, and make sure your front yard leaves a good first impression with a spruced-up yard, fresh exterior paint, and pops of colour.

You don’t need a big budget or a brand-new home to create one that feels and looks like a hotel. All you need is a little bit of know-how and some elbow grease and anything is possible.

Source: Coldwell Banker Blue Matters

 

 

How to Captivate Home Buyers by Capturing a

Hotel Vibe

 

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Advice for first-time homeowners on areas where spending a little bit more is likely to pay off in the long-run. From valuable aesthetic updates in key areas such as the kitchen, bathroom and living room to installing smart heating systems and insulation to prioritize energy efficiency, these tips will leave you inspired to make the most out of your first home update.


Replace flooring


Flooring has the power to change a room entirely, so it should go without saying that this is an essential aspect of the home where you should consider spending a little extra. Since flooring in areas such as the hallway, kitchen and bathroom is likely to undergo high footfall traffic, your material choice should always look to combine durability with that visual wow-factor where possible.


When it comes to updating your flooring, choose neutral colours to create a luxe look that goes the distance. Generally, neutral colours offer you the freedom to change your furniture or accessories without updating all the fixtures and fittings in the process, and will even allow you to keep up with trends as they change.


Whether you’re opting for some stylish, large format floor tiles which offer a contemporary touch in the kitchen or some hardwood flooring which adds warmth to your living room, quality flooring is a great way to add personality to a new space from the off – meaning showing your floors a little TLC should be high up on your list of investment priorities.


Update key areas of the home


As the hub of the home where friends and family alike come together to relax, the living room is the best place to start when it comes to fixtures and fittings. Lighting can have a huge impact on the overall aesthetic in your living room – so it’s worth spending a little bit more on lamps or downlighters to add that cozy, homely touch to the lounge.

Additionally, art is a great way to change the ambiance in your living room, so choosing pieces with comfort and calmness in mind is a great way to add a tranquil theme that makes you feel right at home from the get-go.


Naturally, ensuring your bathroom looks fresh, well maintained and hygienic is important when moving into any new home. Modern or high tech touches are an effective way to add an extra luxe appeal, so consider investing in a rain shower or waterfall taps to create a relaxing oasis that washes away the stresses of moving and unpacking.


Elsewhere in the home, high-end fittings such as granite or quartz worktops are practical choices that will go the

distance. Though these may be a high investment initially, investing in durable, hard-wearing and practical materials in areas of frequent use ensures longevity and, as such, a great return on your investment in the long-run. 


Invest in quality furniture


Nothing makes a house feel like home quite like furniture – after all, furniture is the most effective way of adding character to any space. When opting for your style, try to prioritize items that will stand the test of time, as this will ensure your first few years in your new home isn’t spent constantly renovating in-line with the latest trends.


When choosing timeless furniture, wood is often the first material which springs to mind. While solid wood is often more expensive than other types, it boasts a distinctive aesthetic and durability that will look great year after year. Whether you’re purchasing an oak cabinet for the living room or some luxury walnut bedroom cabinets, solid wood is an effective way to add a high-end, comforting appeal to your home.


Prioritize energy efficiency


Energy efficiency is now one of the highest priorities for homeowners as it can make a significant difference in the cost of utility bills. While adding energy-efficient features may be a large initial investment, the sooner you start making the changes, the greater your savings will be – so we recommend optimizing your new home right away.


Some essential areas to evaluate energy efficiency are the boiler and the loft. Poorly insulated lofts can be a major cause of energy wastage, even if all of your other appliances are in premium condition. If appliances such as your boiler aren’t in a premium condition, however, this could only add more costs to your energy bills, particularly if it breaks down during the winter months.


To keep track of your heating usage and spot issues early, a smart heating system is a great way to monitor your spending. Smart heaters allow you to add more thermostats and controls to different rooms, including hot water and heating – making this a logical investment for any first home.




Source: Coldwell Banker Blue Matters

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On the journey to selling your home, it can be all too easy to focus solely on finding your new dream property and forget to ensure the home you leave behind is a dream property for its next inhabitants. Creating a beautiful living space that you’ll soon be leaving may seem counterproductive, but the good news is giving your home some targeted TLC before selling can increase its value at a time when that matters most.


A blank canvas color palette


Pale, muted and earthy shades are widely acknowledged as appealing to potential buyers due to being stripped-back and, as a result, boundless in potential. Without a bold, imposing color scheme limiting their imagination, prospective buyers will be able to effortlessly picture themselves living in the space.


A neutral color palette is particularly at home in the bathroom, which should be designated as a space for peaceful, uninterrupted relaxation. Calming shades such as white, cream and beige are ideal for creating that all-important atmosphere of zen – and with any luck, potential buyers will feel their worries melt away the moment they first set foot in your blank canvas bathroom.


Vertical storage space maximized


In smaller homes, storage space is at a premium – and even if your property is a reasonable size, there’s no denying the appeal of extra storage options that don’t impose on the living space itself.


In the bathroom, your best bet is to unlock the potential of your available vertical space – introducing new hanging storage baskets, wall-mounted hooks and rails, and floating shelves, all of which are as affordable as they are effective. With these simple storage additions, you can create an utterly clutter-free space where everything has its right place – guaranteed to go down a storm with prospective buyers.


A striking statement bathtub


Introducing a distinctive statement feature to your home is interior design 101 – and the bathroom is a particularly effective space for putting this idea into action. To promptly dial up your bathroom’s aesthetic from perfectly adequate to unmistakably premium, invest in a sumptuous statement bath that immediately catches the eye.


Free-standing bathtubs, in particular, add instant opulence to any bathroom, conjuring images of tranquil living in the lap of luxury. If your property can make a promise as powerful as that, finding a buyer shouldn’t be a problem.


Radiant lighting fixtures


The right lighting is the key to the right ambience, and ambience isn’t something that can be neglected in a relaxation station like the bathroom. In keeping with your understated yet elegant aesthetic, you can increase your bathroom’s appeal further still by illuminating the space with gently glowing sconces, under-cabinet or over-shelf lighting, an industrial-look pendant lamp or a combination of the lot if you’re open to something a little more eclectic.


Of course, the ultimate bathroom lighting solution is to introduce a skylight, bathing the entire space in rejuvenating natural light. This will mean a far greater financial investment on your part, but is likely to pay dividends when the time comes to sell your home.


Premium extras aplenty


With your neutral color palette, vertical storage options, statement bathtub and luxurious light fixtures firmly in place, all that’s left is to ice the cake – by which we mean put the finishing touches on your irresistible bathroom.


From elegant wall mirrors and dainty cabinets to a fashionable and functional backsplash behind the basin or in the shower, the options are practically endless when it comes to accessorizing your way to a bathroom any prospective buyer will be happy to pay more for the luxury of living in.



Source: Coldwell Banker Blue Matters

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From price and location to the physical structure itself, the list of things to keep in mind when shopping for a house can seem endless. But some problems you encounter don’t need to affect your final decision. Although easy is a relative term, accomplishing the 10 fixes that follow is generally pretty straightforward. We also point out some big-ticket fixes to watch out for. Happy house hunting!


1. Easy fix: Repaint or reface existing cabinetry. If the interior structure of the cabinetry is still sound, refinishing, repainting or refacing (replacing the cabinet fronts) can be a more cost-effective way to refresh a dated kitchen than completely replacing the cabinetry. If the cabinet doors are in poor condition or you want to change the style, consider refacing.


2. Easy fix: New appliances. Swapping out old appliances for shiny new models is one of the biggest-impact ways to makeover your kitchen without getting bogged down in a full remodel. And because the cost of appliances and installation is pretty straightforward, it’s easier to plan and budget for this upgrade than projects that might expand beyond your original scope.


Not-so-easy fix: New kitchen layout. Replacing what’s already in your kitchen is one thing, but when you start to move the plumbing and electrical around, costs can rise quickly. If possible, go for a house with a kitchen that has a layout you’re happy with — you can always tweak the details.


3. Easy fix: Fresh carpeting. Stained, worn-out carpeting is a real bummer, and it can be hard to see past it when viewing a potential home. But ripping out old carpeting and putting in something new can make a huge difference in how a space looks and feels.


4. Easy fix: New paint color. It’s amazing the effect color can have on us — remind yourself of this fact the next time you tour an open house with some (ahem) unusual color choices. You can easily (and cheaply) replace any wall color with a beautiful hue.


5. Easy fix: Replace light fixtures. Swapping outdated light fixtures with new ones you love is a quick and easy fix an electrician or DIY-savvy homeowner can accomplish in relatively little time. From modern pendants to chandeliers, there’s a light for every style and taste.


Not-so-easy fix: Extensive electrical work. Exchanging one light fixture for another in the same spot is simple; updating old or unsafe systems is another matter entirely. Electrical work should definitely be left to the pros, and electrical repairs in an older home can cost a pretty penny, so be sure to get a thorough inspection and review it in detail.


6. Easy fix: Repurpose a room. Just because a room is shown as a messy kids’ room or workout space doesn’t mean that’s what will make the most sense for you. As you tour potential new homes, think creatively about the spaces you see and try to imagine your own furniture in them. One person’s overstuffed home office could be your perfect sunroom.


Not-so-easy fix: Adding on. Remodeling costs get a whole lot bigger whenever you talk about changing the footprint of a home, so try not to be seduced by talk of how “easy” it would be to tack a room on to the back of the house. Although there are always exceptions, your best bet is usually to find a house with a footprint you can work with.


7. Easy fix: Remove or cover up popcorn ceilings. Not much dates a house like the lumpy, bumpy texture of a popcorn ceiling. Thankfully, fixing it isn’t too complicated, and you’ll soon have a nice, smooth ceiling. The most common method is simply scraping it off, but if there’s any chance that lead and-or asbestos might be present in the paint or the popcorn material itself, you’ll need to cover it up with drywall instead.


8. Easy fix: Add architectural interest. If you love the look of older homes with lots of original architectural details but haven’t been able to find the right one at the right price, it’s still possible to get some of the detail you crave, even in a newer build. Crown molding, baseboards, picture rails and even built-in features like bookcases and bench seating can be added by a carpenter to give a boxy new build added character. It’s an extra cost, but it’s not especially difficult, and it can make a big difference in how you experience a home.


9. Easy fix: Refinish floors. If you’re lucky enough to spot a house with real wood floors, don’t let a dull finish turn you off. While engineered hardwood can usually be refinished only a few times during its life (the number depends on how thick the veneer is) solid hardwoods can take a lot more, so you can have gorgeous, glossy floors (or artfully beat-up floors if you desire) for years to come.


10. Easy fix: Add landscaping. Yard looking a little bare? Adding landscaping, whether a simple DIY job or a landscaping pro’s design and installation, is something that can make a huge impact on curb appeal and, more important, how you feel when you come home each day.



Source: Coldwell Banker Blue Matters


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When it comes to packing up your home for a move, the garage is often the last room packed. Let’s face it, we put it off due to the sheer number of things piled up over the years. Garages are full of tools, landscaping equipment and things you don’t want to look at. Often, our garages have become the dumping ground of junk we don’t want in the house. But…there are so many advantages to making the garage the first room you pack up. With a little planning, packing up your garage will ease your mind and possibly fill your wallet! So, how do you tackle packing a garage?


#1: Sort and have a garage sale!


Moving is the time when the garage finally gets cleaned out. Hurray! It doesn’t make much sense to move belongings you have no intention of ever using at the new place. Now is the time to get rid of what you really don’t need: the stroller for your now 10 year-old; the growing collection of sport teams t-shirts; tools never used; etc. But, don’t just toss them out… sell or donate them. If you have the time, a garage sale is a great way to de-clutter and get some extra cash in your pocket.


First, sort items by creating two sections in your garage: one section for the things you are taking with you and one for the stuff you don’t want or need anymore. Then price and tag the unwanted items for your garage sale. The items that don’t sell can be donated. Donate clothing and household items to your local favorite charity for someone else to enjoy. You can even donate your unwanted furniture. Getting rid of items will cut down on your moving expenses and keep your new garage space nice and a great place to get the rest of your house organized!


#2: Get the right supplies


Get the right stuff for your stuff: the right boxes and supplies paired with the right packing methods are crucial in the success of your entire move. In the garage, most items are heavy and oddly shaped. Be sure to have the following on hand:

– Boxes: Sturdy, recyclable cardboard boxes of various sizes.

– Eco-bubble wrap: Use biodegradable eco-bubble wrap to protect items.

– Packing Tape: Every box needs to be taped, top and bottom, with 2 – 2 1/2 inch gummed or masking tape to give it additional strength and prevent opening, so you’ll need approximately one roll of tape for every 15 to 20 boxes. Run multiple strips of tape along the bottom of the box in both directions to make sure the box stays secure.

– Packing Paper: While ordinary newspaper works fine for some purposes, be aware that the paper’s print will run giving you an extra cleaning task at your new home.

– Blankets: Your mover can provide you with moving blankets for large items.


Tip: Before you start placing your garage belongings into the moving boxes make sure you have secured the boxes bottoms with several layers of packing tape for added protection. Correctly packed boxes paired with the correct moving supplies keep your items safe during storage and transport.


#3: How to pack garage items


– Leave smaller hand tools such as screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers, hammers, etc. in your toolbox and close securely.

– Wrap any items with sharp blades with a few layers of eco-bubble.

– Bundle large garden tools such shovels and rakes together with tape or rope and wrap them with a large moving blanket.

– Preferably pack power tools in their original container. Remove any detachable parts a tool may have, including the batteries, and pack them in the same box.

– Gas operated machinery such as lawn mowers and chain saws must be emptied of their fuel before they are moved.

– Stack outdoor chairs and disassemble other outdoor furniture when possible. Remove cushions and pack them in boxes.

– Wrap fragile flowerpots in eco-bubble. However, keep in mind moving companies cannot move plants across state lines. And your plants won’t survive in storage.


#4: Label, Label!


Remember that memory card game? It’s hard to find those two matching elephants in rows and rows of cards. Label each box with what contents are on the inside and write the location where this box is going: “Charity” or “GARAGE” and remember to write “FRAGILE” when needed.


While the garage is often the last room packed in a home, make it your first. It takes a lot of time; from sorting, dealing with odd shaped tricky items to packing and donating. So start early and ask for help! You can also use that empty garage space for moving items out of each room and sorting. Repeat the above steps for each room. Wishing you a stress free move!



Source: Coldwell Banker Blue Matters



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When it’s summertime, homeowners are usually too distracted by the lure of beaches and festivals to focus on home improvement projects. By the time the fall season arrives, there’s usually a long list of things that you want to do at your home. The pressure to fix up your house can be overwhelming, so start by focusing on these four fall home improvement musts.


Give Your Rooms a Fresh Coat of Paint


When the fall season arrives, the weather gets cooler and it’s the perfect time to get some painting done. Pick out the two or three rooms in your home where you spend the most time and add a fresh coat of paint to the walls in new colors. If you have a porch that has become weathered over the summer, give it a new look with a couple of coats of exterior paint.


New Lighting Fixtures


You probably don’t pay much attention to the condition and appearance of your lighting fixtures until you start to spend more time indoors in the fall and winter. You’ll significantly improve the appearance of your home by simply changing the lighting fixtures in your living room, dining room, and bedrooms. Get slightly brighter bulbs to brighten up your rooms. Also, remember that it starts to get dark earlier in the fall, so make sure that your outdoor lights are fully functional and the bulbs are replaced to last throughout the season.


Garage or Basement Cleanup


One smart fall home improvement project to take on is a thorough garage or basement cleanup. Sweep away the grass trimmings, soil, and dirt that you may have tracked in after a long summer of yard work. Take the time to organize your tools and supplies that are in storage in boxes, drawers, and bins. Toss empty bottles and expired products. If the floor has seen better days, apply epoxy-coating — it will give your garage or basement a clean, fresh look. Also, hire someone to do a routine check of your heating system, plumbing, and other units that are located in the garage or basement before the winter.


Apply Weather Seal or Replace Old Windows


If you have old windows in your home, apply weather seal to them to save on your energy bills. Old wooden windows often leave a crack at the bottom where cold drafts get into your house, so add adhesive weather stripping. Also, gently sand and put a fresh coat of paint on frames that look worn down. This may also be the year that you’ll want to invest in a new set of energy-efficient vertical slider windows with vinyl frames to replace your old wooden ones.



Source: Coldwell Banker Blue Matters


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A picture is worth a thousand words. We’ve all heard the saying before, and it’s definitely true when it comes to real estate. It would be almost impossible to fully describe a house without pictures. There’s just one problem; too often homeowners forget about picture quality.


Not all images are created equal. Blurry or poor-quality photos can be detrimental when selling your home. The question is, “Does professional photography help sell homes?” The simple answer is yes.


Professional photography can make all the difference when it comes to selling your home more quickly. It’s one reason why professional real estate photography exists.


Don’t just take our word for it. The facts speak for themselves.


Buyers Care About Photos Most


When looking at property, experts revealed that buyers are most interested in real estate photography. In fact, 95.1% of buyers first looked at pictures over everything else on a listing. Only after the pictures caught their attention did buyers move onto the property description section.


Real estate listing photos are particularly important when it comes to using the internet to home shop. According to the National Association of Realtors, 92% of buyers use the internet to shop for a home. Without photos, many homebuyers won’t even bother clicking on an online home listing.


Professional Photos Attract More Buyers


In addition, better quality photos can also increase the number of people clicking on your listing. This means that simply updating your listing with professional photos can potentially double the attention your home gets from potential buyers.


Professional Photos Give You a Competitive Edge


It’s easy to tell the difference between amateur photography and high-quality professional real estate photography. There really is no comparison, and your buyers will immediately recognize the difference and be more attracted to beautiful photography.


What’s the difference?


Art Direction: Professional photographers understand the essential elements that make up quality home images. This means that your bathroom won’t just be a picture of the toilet, but a piece of art that makes your bathroom look the best it’s ever looked.


Staged Rooms: An empty home won’t get you anywhere. Furnished rooms and spectacularly staged photos attract homebuyers by helping them envision their new life in your home.


Perfect Composition: Great real estate photos need the right light, angles, and composition to capture emotion, structure, and beauty. A professional sees all of this and makes it happen.


Editing: Few pictures are automatically perfect. Instead, they require careful post-production editing to enhance the final product.


Better images provide an ideal showcase for the home you love. It’s all of these elements together that help professional photos stand out online and in every listing. So, if you want your home to have a competitive edge in your area, you need the right real estate photographer.


Professional Photos Sell Homes Faster


Studies reveal that professional real estate photos can help a listing sell faster than comparable homes without professional photography. This means that if you have limited time or want to get your home off of your hands quickly, you can’t just point and shoot with your own camera. You need images that are produced professionally in order to have a major impact on potential buyers.


In the end, there’s no doubt that professional home photography is a good idea if you want to sell your home faster and for more money.


Source: Coldwell Banker Blue Matters


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Summer is here! For families, it’s the most popular time to move to a new home because school is out. If there is any comfort in togetherness, a lot of us move in the summer. Don’t feel alone, we’re here to guide you! 


It’s no secret, no one likes to move and that includes your kids. Moving is one of the most stressful times in life, and it brings lots of change. For your kids, it means making new friends, and maybe, adjusting to a new school. If you have a little mover in tow, moving your home certainly adds to the baby adventures!


Here’s the good news, if you plan ahead and take simple steps, the trek through the moving process will become a walk in the park (well, maybe not, but it can be a manageable stroll up hill.) Way before you break out those cardboard boxes, use these pointers to help your kids, toddlers, and babies get through the moving process.


Here are four steps to a successful move with a young family. It’s all about: timing, transition, getting the kids involved, and an adjustment period.


Timing:


1. First, consider the timing of your move, this is probably the most important element:


  • What grades are your children in? If your eldest is about to be a senior in high school, it may be best to let them live with a trusted relative to finish up high school with their friends. If your youngest is about to start school or enter high school, this is an ideal time to move since they will be entering a new school either way. Is school on a break? Much better to time a move with kids when school’s out.
  • Babies and kids love and need their routine. Don’t let the moving to-do list and packing get in the way of your regular daily routine. Instead of pulling an all-nighter to pack, try to pack over a long period of time. Use naptime and baby’s early bedtime to get packing done in bits. Baby & parents need their sleep!

Transition:


2. Second, make the transition into the new home as easy as possible for your kids and little ones. Try these tips to make the transition a smooth one:


  • Make the new home the kids’ own. Allow them to walk through the new house before the move. Let them feel that they are part of the decision. Allow them (as much as possible) to choose their own bedroom, paint colors (“Here, let’s pick the paint color for your new room: which do you choose between these two.”), and play the imagination game with them: “Let’s imagine what this room will be like when it’s yours? Where will your stuffed animals go? Where will the bed go?” etc.
  • In the old house, talk about how their favorite toys, games, etc. are going to be in the new house too. This is not the time to clean out the closet and discard unwanted clothes and toys. You don’t want your kids associating loss with the move. If you need to de-clutter your kid’s room, do that way before the subject of the move comes up. De-cluttering is an excellent pre-move activity and really doesn’t have to involve the word “moving” at all.
  • TALK and LISTEN to your kids. Ask them what they are excited about and what things they are going to miss. Address their concerns: “What are we going to do about that? How about…”
  • During the actual moving day, when boxes and furniture are being moved, little ones should be somewhere else. Ask a trusted babysitter, friend or family member to take your kids and bundle of joy for the day. It is also ideal to use childcare for days leading up to your move so you can get more done on your moving calendar.
  • Stay connected to friends, neighbors and family back home. Arrange facetime appointments with the children’s friends before you move to the new home, it will help make the transition easier when they know they can keep in touch with their old friends. And, set up a play date for the old friends to come over for a sleep over.

Involve Your Kids:


3. There is no easier way to keep kids happy than giving them a feeling of control – get them involved!


  • Have them arrange their own room. Draw out a floor plan of the rooms in the new house and let the children make paper doll furniture and arrange what they want in their room.
  • Encourage your kids to pack themselves so they are involved in the moving process. They can have their own boxes and suitcases that they are responsible for. Give them color codes or fun stickers to stick on their boxes that belong in their room. You can oversee this. But, give them one box to pack freely with the stuff they want, it will be the first box they open in their new room.
  • Give each child a backpack to fill with overnight items so you don’t have to dig through boxes. Include their toothbrush, pjs, stuffed animal, favorite bedtime story, remember to put the children’s medications in mommy’s purse or backpack for safe keeping.
  • Pack a baby bag with all of your needs for three days. If you’re moving a long distance, you may want at least one month of supplies with you rather than on the moving truck. Once you move into your new place, you may not have easy access to diapers, baby food, pacifiers, and the all important security blanket, you’ll be happy that you know just where to look for those items.

Adjustment:


4. Last, is the adjustment to the new home and neighborhood. It’s an extremely important phase of a move; it sets the stage for your new life in your new home. Here are suggestions to make the adjustment period a great one:


  • When moving in, set up the nursery first. This will allow you to easily change your baby’s clothes and diapers. You’ll have a nice space for that first bedtime story when you put them to sleep on the first night in your new home. Arrange the nursery as closely as possible to your previous nursery. The familiarity will help you and your baby in the transition.
  • Host a party in your new neighborhood and invite children of the same age as your own kid(s) over so that they can make new friends. It’s as easy as a pool party, pizza party, or cookout. Try to host the party in the first weeks of being in your new home.
  • Take them for a drive by their new school, the local ice cream place, playground, if they have a hobby such as dancing, show them that there is a dance studio here too, so they can see their new neighborhood has all the same things as the old.
  • Set up a tour of the new school and to meet their new teacher before school starts.
  • If you move in the beginning of the summer, sign them up for camp or other local activities where they can meet new kids before school starts. It also keeps them out of the house so you can continue the unpacking!

By taking these four points into consideration, your next chapter in your new home will start out with ease – giving every member of your family time to make the new house home.



Source: Coldwell Banker Blue Matters



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Don’t you hate it when the grass is greener at your next door neighbor’s place? This summer you could have the lawn that turns everyone’s eyes green with envy and admiration, but you’ve got to get on it right now! Follow these tips to manifest the lawn of your life.

1. Inspect

Inspect your lawn and note any spots that need special attention. If you notice brown patches, you need to act quickly to identify the disease so you can treat it. If the entire lawn is somewhat flattened from winter weather, call in an aeration service. Those little holes in the lawn will last just long enough to loosen up the soil and allow better water and nutrient absorption.

2. Rake

Rake any dead spots and reseed using a variety of grass seed to match the rest of your lawn. For larger areas that may have been damaged by snow plows, for example, you can remove entire sections and replace with sod. If you notice areas where there has been a lot of soil erosion, mulch beds are a good way to shore up future runoffs.

3. Fertilize

Apply a slow-release fertilizer to feed the grass over weeks. Pick a day that’s not windy and check to make sure there’s no rain in the immediate forecast to keep the fertilizer where you want it. Dispose of any leftover fertilizer appropriately, as you would household chemicals like paint.

4. Water

Make sure to water deeply, not daily. Deep watering will encourage a healthy root system. Whether you drag the hose out in the morning or have an automatic sprinkler system, set a watering schedule. Your lawn needs an inch to an inch and a half of water a week.

5. Lawnmower Maintenance

Keep mower blades sharp and balanced for clean cuts, and change the pattern every time you mow so grass blades will stand up straight. Remember to let your grass clippings fall where they may, and remain there. “Grasscycling” returns nutrients to the soil, allowing them to fertilize the lawn.


Proper lawn care prevents the most common lawn problems from getting out of control. Keeping the grass at the right length will help keep it healthy and keep weeds at bay.

6. Rake & Weed

When autumn arrives, and the leaves begin to fall, don’t wait for large amounts to pile up. Remove leaves often, so they don’t get a chance to become wet and sticky. Blankets of wet leaves can create a fungal problem that will plague your lawn long after the last snow falls.


Set yourself up for another lovely lawn the following spring and summer by doing some weed control now, and an application of fertilizer for nutrients to feed your grass throughout the cold season.


Keep in mind, if you plan to sell your home, having a nice lawn is crucial. But the homes that show the best have more than just end-to-end grass.  The right shade trees will also protect your lawn and keep your house cooler this summer.


Notice summer lawn care doesn’t just cover June through September. By preparing your lawn well in advance of the summer heat, you’ll have a yard that will withstand the stress of summer and thrive through the fall.



Source: Coldwell Banker Blue Matters

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Buying a home is both exciting and stressful. Consider these tips about how to spot potential issues when viewing homes with your real estate agent.


Buying a home is both exciting and stressful. After all, you want to find a place that suits your living needs and is in great condition. One of the biggest concerns is that the property you purchase is structurally sound, and this often starts with the foundation. Consider these tips about how to spot potential issues when viewing homes with your real estate agent.


Watch for these warning signs
When touring homes, keep an eye out for the following signs of foundation problems. Pay extra attention if you’re looking at homes built more than a decade ago or in an area with clay soil, which is notorious for damaging foundations.


What to look for on the outside:
• Horizontal cracks in the foundation itself
• Stair-step cracking in exterior bricks
• A chimney that leans away from the house
• Gaps above windows and doors or around the garage door
• Sunken porches or stairs


What to look for on the inside:
• Cracks in the drywall
• Misaligned windows or doors that are hard to open and close
• Sloping floors or cracked tiles
• Cracks in the ceiling
• Any separation between walls and the ceiling
• Moisture in crawl spaces or the basement


What should I do if I see these warning signs?
Many buyers run for the hills when they think a home’s foundation isn’t structurally sound, but you don’t need to immediately rule out a house if you believe it has foundation problems. Take a deep breath and investigate the issues—the more you know, the better decisions you can make. Keep in mind that some situations will only require minor repairs, while others can be quite complex.


Start here to weigh the pros and cons:
• Ask the seller if they’ve had foundation repair work or an inspection done. In most cases, sellers are required by law to disclose foundation issues.
• Research the potential cost of repairs to help you determine a fair price. A wealth of information is available online—search for “foundation repair cost” to get an overview of what to expect.
• Find out if the issues will affect your financing. Often, houses with unresolved foundation problems can only be purchased with cash or a special type of mortgage.


What if a home I’d like to buy has had the foundation repaired?
Many buyers would look at this as a positive, especially if the repairs were done by a reputable contractor who offers a warranty. The best foundation repair companies offer a lifetime warranty that is transferable when the home sells. Just be sure that all the proper permits were pulled at the time of the repair and that there hasn’t been any trouble since. If the foundation has been stabilized, any remaining cosmetic issues can be resolved easily and quickly.


What if I’d like to make an offer but don’t want to end up with a nightmare on my hands?
Make sure your offer is written up with contingencies that protect you if things turn out differently than expected. A contingency will make your offer dependent on specific conditions, such as inspections or repairs. Discuss your options with your real estate agent.


Should I ask the seller to fix the foundation as part of the sale?
You can ask the seller to make the repairs, but it’s common for them to reduce the price of the home and sell it “as is.” If you aren’t up for making the repairs yourself, you may need to look for a different house. Additionally, some buyers worry that if the seller is held responsible, they will choose the most affordable option, not the most thorough one.


Source: Coldwell Banker Blue Matters

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Spring is coming, which means it is almost prime time for gardening. Whether you are a novice gardener or an old pro, there are a few critical actions to take when you set out to design a garden. Read on for six steps for designing your garden–and get started stat!


Step 1: Location, Location, Location


Like so many things in life, with gardens, location is everything. Determine where you want your garden to be. There are a few important considerations to keep in mind. If you want a landscaped garden around your home, you will have to take into account the shadow cast by the house, drainage, and other logistical issues. If you want a vegetable and herb garden, you will need a place that receives full sunlight for most of the day but especially in the morning.


Step 2: Map it Out


These days, drawing out an aerial perspective isn’t difficult. Use some of the tools technology has given us, like Google Earth, to make an aerial image of your property or the specific part of your property where your garden will go. You don’t have to be a skilled artist to do this: you need a printer and some tracing paper. It doesn’t have to be perfect, either. You just want a visual reference of your site.


Step 3: Evaluate Your Options


Walk around your future garden site, make observations, and take notes. Note where the shadows fall during the day, which direction prevailing winds come from, and where water drains during heavy rains. Using your site drawing and some tracing paper (or multiple copies of the drawing), note these conditions on your map where they occur.


Step 4: Scale Your Drawing


This may sound difficult, but it really isn’t. The easiest way to make a scale drawing is to find the edge of a wall, measure it, and then decide on a unit to represent each foot. A good scale for design is ¼ inch to a foot. That would make a fifty-foot length just over twelve inches in your drawing. Again, it does not have to be perfect.


Step 5: Plant Selection


Finally, the fun begins! Make a list of all the plants you want, and if you’re not sure, visit a local gardening center and see what types of plants are available. There are also numerous online gardening guides to ornamental plants, or you can visit a local campus or botanical garden for inspiration. Make sure you select for species that will thrive in your hardiness zone.


Step 6: Planting Plan


Garden designers everywhere love this step: it’s the reward for all your hard work. Using your scale drawing and your notes on site conditions, create a design for planting. Have fun with colors, heights, and textures, but bear in mind which plants can tolerate shade and sun to ensure their success. Draw in your plants to the dimension they will be when mature so you can make sure they aren’t overcrowded.


And voila– you now have a solid design for a successful garden. If these six steps for designing your garden seem like a little too much work, or you aren’t sure how to put them in action, don’t hesitate to ask a landscape professional for help. It may seem like a lot of work, but that work will pay off when your garden is the envy of the neighborhood.


Source: Coldwell Banker Blue Matters

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What makes a house a home? It’s a hard question to answer, but a large part of it is the years of memories you’ve made in it. Oftentimes that includes the blemishes, flaws and dents on the walls and furniture that serve as lasting impressions of cherished moments and fun times. However, whether you’re selling your home or just making it presentable for guests, there are times you’ll want to camouflage them up.

Create a Gallery Wall

Put your inner art connoisseur to work to blend random light switches or bulky thermostats into your design. Strategically place similarly sized artwork around switch plates, outlet covers and wall gadgets to distract the eye. If you want to cover it entirely, mount a canvas painting over it or hang art from a swing arm so you can reach behind it when necessary.

Hang Long Drapes

Window treatments are generally used for, you guessed it, windows, but they certainly aren’t restricted to other uses. Drape big and breezy curtains above to disguise unsightly wall features or awkward off-center windows. Off-white and cream shades are perfect to use all year round.

Paint the Wall

This is probably one of the most obvious solutions to drywall chips and paint scratches, but here are some guidelines to help you get it right. Stick to one matte color for the walls, ceiling and trim to downplay the lines between and blend them together. Remember, the glossier the paint finish is, the more it will highlight imperfections.


Consider chalkboard paint for a non-glossy texture and an ever-changing wall feature. You can create your own design and erase it as your style evolves or use it to jot down lists and reminders.


Add wallpaper. Use wallpaper to inject personality and fun into any space. Choose from subtle designs to a dramatic mural or anywhere in between. Keep optical illusions in mind when picking patterns. For example, a striped design can make a small space look taller or wider.

Cover it With Clothes

If you have a scratch on your bedroom wall that just won’t go away, play fashionista and move a shop-style clothing rack in front. Showcase some of your most stylish garments or everyday staples on the rack to lighten your closet’s load.

Lay Down a Rug

Roll out a gorgeous area rug over all the nicks and notches on your floor from moving furniture or dropping heavy items. Especially great for renters, rugs come in a variety of styles, colors and price points to fit your personal preferences without committing to a permanent change.

Rethink the Fifth Wall

This is a bit of a heavier project to take on, but perhaps most rewarding for those left with an infamous popcorn ceiling. Upgrade overhead stucco for a beautiful new feature with paint or paneling. Try white beadboard or wood slats for irresistible rustic charm.

Work Around Wall Vents

Air vents are necessary for cooling, heating and any other home circulation systems, but can be quite unattractive. Conceal them with slotted laser-cut screens that add texture and visual interest. In this living room, the revamped air return works double duty as a display shelf.

Choose Your Switches Wisely

Light switches and power outlets are must-haves in every home and there’s often no easy way around them. Wherever possible, especially in the kitchen and bathroom, group your electrical outlets together and shop for new switch plates that complement the existing wall. You can blend them into an existing pattern, as seen here, or make them a fun feature with vibrant colors and textured materials.


Embrace imperfections. After all, they’re what makes your house so special. You can capitalize on the look and help them blend in by investing in distressed furnishings, such as rustic coffee tables or stained wood floors. You won’t have to worry too much about future drops or spills and they instantly add built-in age and character to any space.


Source: Coldwell Banker Blue Matters

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Your kitchen probably saw a lot of action during the holidays. How that splatter of mashed sweet potatoes got on the ceiling is anyone’s guess. But that mess just means it’s time for a deep cleaning. Here we round up a collection of cleaning guides that, if followed, will help you get your countertops, appliances, floors and more shining like new.


Appliances

A good portion of your deep-cleaning efforts should focus on the areas that see the most impact from spills, splatters and the like.


Refrigerator. Few appliances get out of hand as quickly as the fridge. Leftovers, forgotten food, leaky containers — before you know it, you’ll dread opening the refrigerator door to grab some coffee creamer in the morning. Begin by taking all the food out of the fridge and placing it in a cooler. Then remove the shelves and drawers and set them aside. Use a baking soda and water solution to wipe the inside thoroughly. Got stubborn, sticky spots? Try a nonabrasive scrubbing tool or put warm, wet paper towels on top to loosen the spot.


Dishwasher. The dishwasher, like the washing machine, is one of those appliances that many assume is self-cleaning. But that’s not the case. Lime scale, soap scum and food particles cause the machine to work inefficiently.  A clean dishwasher begins with hot water. So check to make sure your hot-water heater is operating at the optimal temperature of about 49 degrees Celsius. Next, empty the filter of food and debris, remove and clean the racks, and wipe the inside with a dry cloth or sponge. Avoid using hand soap or dish detergent, which can damage the machine’s components. Finally, use white vinegar or baking soda to remove hard-water stains.


Microwave. Food splatters are a fact of life when using this appliance. Even if you can live with seeing a mess every time you nuke your food, know that food particles can eventually make your machine run less efficiently. And nobody wants cold food. Prevention is the name of the game here. Cover your food to minimize splatters, and wipe the inside of your microwave daily with a wet sponge or towel before food has a chance to harden. For more stubborn spots, try heating about 1 cup of water in a microwave-safe container on high for two to three minutes. The steam should help loosen the caked-on spots. Next, use white vinegar to wipe out the inside. Also, make vacuuming your microwave’s vents part of your vacuuming routine.


Range and oven. This appliance probably took the brunt of your holiday cooking messes. It’s not the easiest or quickest thing to clean, but as the star of your kitchen, it’s necessary. Remove the burners and trays and soak them in soapy water for 20 minutes, then scrub clean with a sponge. Wipe down the stove-top. For the oven, remove the racks and soak them in sudsy water in your sink, then wipe clean with a sponge. Look to your owner’s manual for the right cleaning method for the oven, but you can begin by vacuuming out the crumbs on the bottom and wiping the inside with a damp sponge. A commercial oven cleaner will be your best bet but there are alternative solutions as well. As a daily preventative measure, try putting parchment paper on the bottom to catch drips and spills and change out as needed.


Stainless steel. Stainless steel appliances continue to be the norm in most kitchens. While its name implies a certain built-in cleanliness, steel surfaces, including countertops, are still prone to rust and stains. Use soft sponges and microfiber cloths to wipe steel surfaces. Avoid steel scouring pads, which can scratch surfaces. For tough spots, use plastic scrubbing pads. For brushed or polished steel surfaces, always wipe and scrub with the grain direction. Use  CLR for any hard-water stains, and diluted vinegar, baking soda, alcoholic solvents and chloride-free glass sprays elsewhere.


Countertops

Spots and stains on countertops are probably the most visible and pressing messes in your kitchen. Each material is different, so do some research before you break out the abrasive cleansers, which could damage your countertop beyond repair.


Marble. Few materials offer the subtle beauty of marble. But it comes with a price, both in terms of cost and maintenance. Etching from lemon juice, alcohol or tomato sauce can wreak havoc on your precious marble surfaces. First, avoid acidic substances coming into contact with your countertop. That includes cleaning products but also vinegar, lemon juice, and bleach. To clean, just use mild soap, water, and a nonabrasive sponge. At least once a month, experts recommend applying a spray sealer to help reduce stains and etching.


Granite. Still the most popular countertop material, granite is relatively easy to keep clean. You can get by with using a soft cloth and warm water, or cleansers made specifically for granite. Every year or two, seal your slab with an impregnating water-based sealer made for granite. You’ll still want to avoid acidic cleaners and citrus when possible. And don’t use steel wool, which can scratch most countertops. Plus, never place a hot pot or pan on a countertop surface. Always use a trivet for protection.


Pantry

It’s hard to feel like you’re operating in a clean kitchen when you know a huge, disorganized mess lurks behind your cabinet doors. Begin by taking everything out and sorting by what you want to keep and what you want to donate. Then wipe down all the shelves and walls to remove stains and any food crumbs. This is a good time to assess what you can do to improve storage and organization. 


Walls

Walls see a fair share of abuse from splatters, scuffs, and dings.  Start including your walls every now and then in your vacuuming routine. This will help keep dust from accumulating and making the walls look drab. For spots, wipe clean with a damp cloth. For tougher areas, try a thick paste of baking soda and water. If all else fails, consider a Magic Eraser.


Floors

A clean floor begins with regular vacuuming. But food stains and scuff marks need a little more attention. Laminate floors need a barely dampened mop and a small amount of gentle cleanser. For tough spots, you’ll want to get on your hands and knees and work on the spot with a scrubber. The same goes for tile floors, but grout lines will give you more trouble. Try this grout-cleaning solution as needed. Hardwood floors are a different beast and will depend on the kind of finish that’s on your wood: polyurethane, shellac, wax or varnish. Follow the link below for tips on determining what finish you have.


Windows

What good is a view if it’s blurred by smudges and dirt? Don’t leave out windows in your cleaning routine. Before you begin, make sure you protect your floors, walls, and countertops from any drips of cleaning solution you’ll be using. A solution of warm water and mild dish soap is a safe bet. Use a sponge to scrub down the windows, getting into the creases and corners. Then use a squeegee and wipe dry with a clean towel.


Source: Coldwell Banker Blue Matters



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