Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Accessorize It

If your home décor 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-

Highlight a few favorite accessories at one time. While it’s fun to collect different styles of pillows, artwork and collectibles, 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 or your favorite figurines along the mantel.
Choose a color scheme and theme. Before buying accessories, decide on one or two colors that will add 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 sconces, an extravagant chandelier or recessed lighting. With the right accessories, your home can go from ­­stale to stunning in no time.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Summer Security

Summer is a care-free time: School’s out, the weather’s nice and vacations are planned. But that easy-going attitude can leave your house
vulnerable, especially if you’re leaving it unattended for while you’re kicking back at the beach. You know the standard tricks—stop the mail, have a trusted neighbor on the lookout—but you don’t have to stop there.

Go for a smart home. A smart home set-up allows you to control lights, appliances, thermostat and security systems from your phone. So with the tap of a button you can turn the lights on and off from anywhere. Products differ, but simple starter kits are often available starting at around $100.

Fake your TV. Rather than leave your TV on, fake it, and utilize a product that mimics the light made from a real HDTV, including mimicking scene changes, fades and on-screen motion. These small devices start at around $20.

Install fake security cameras. A security camera can be a strong deterrent, but it is expensive. Fake ones, however, are quite cheap, as little as $10. 

Get a sophisticated light timer. Plugging your lights into a timer is the age-old burglar deterrent, which means that determined burglars are wise to this trick. So make sure your timer either turns the lights on and off at random, or allows you to program separate times for each day of the week.

Activate a barking dog. Although a little more expensive, several products allow you to mimic the sound of a barking dog as someone approaches the home. Attached to a motion sensor, the “dog” will start barking if someone is near the home and get louder and more persistent as the person gets closer.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Welcome to the Neighborhood

Moving is hard: With all the logistical considerations of buying the home, closing, moving out of the old place and then into the new, unpacking and then getting settled, you might be too overwhelmed to actually get out and meet the neighbors. But nothing will make your new house feel like a home like knowing the area and the people around you. Here’s a few ways to get involved. Homeowners looking to take advantage should make sure they understand the following information first:

Get outside. Nothing is quite as easy or effective as showing your face in the neighborhood. Do some yardwork, take frequent strolls or take the kids (or the dog) to a nearby park.
Volunteer. Whether you can spare a few hours at your kids’ school, with a service group or at an animal shelter, volunteering will allow you to meet people while doing good. Try contacting your local municipality about opportunities.
Join a club. Try your local library, events listings, and groups that might share your interests.
Take a class. Community colleges, local art and music schools, fitness centers and libraries all offer classes that provide you with the ability to learn something new while networking with neighbors.

Get connected online. So much of our socializing is done online. Try searching for local Facebook pages or join

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Extra Yardage

Want to make better use of your outdoor space without spending a lot of money? Try these three simple tricks that can make all the difference between using your backyard and just looking at it.
  Romantic lighting can really add drama and whimsy to an otherwise dull outdoor space. Try stringing lights over a patio for a look that recalls street cafés and romantic restaurant patios. If you don’t have natural hanging spots for your lights to hook onto, install a simple, wood pole with a loop or hook screw on top. You can install the poles directly into the ground, or attach them onto your pre-existing railings or a heavy base.

 ❷ Potted trees and bushes can divide designated areas, provide shade in the summer heat and create privacy. Consider ‘Skyrocket’ juniper trees, bamboo or arborvitae to start. You may want to ask your local plant center for ones that grow well in your area of the country and how they survive winter, if that is a consideration.

  Add a chimenea. If you live in a climate where it’s cooler at night and you want to extend the life of your patio past summer, add a simple, small chimenea. These are fire pits with a round, open belly and a thick pipe on top. The fires start quickly, don’t get too hot or too big, and are more easily controlled than a traditional open fire pit

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Home Away from Home

Renting a vacation house offers a lot that hotels or other accommodations often don’t provide: keeping your large group together, cooking out and eating family style, and unique amenities such as a private pool or hot tub. Finding the right rental for your group isn’t always easy, however. Here are some tips from The New York Times and Frommers.com to help you make a decision on a rental this summer.

DO YOUR RESEARCH: These days, there is no shortage of information about available rentals. Sites like VRBO.com, FlipKey (which is run by TripAdvisor), and HomeAway.com list thousands of rental homes in North America and across the world. Once you’ve located a few rentals you like, make sure what you see is accurate. Check the owner’s website, online reviews and comments from past users on sites like Yelp or Facebook.

IDENTIFY WHAT YOU WANT: Determine your priorities before you start looking. A beachfront place may be more expensive, but if your family loves the water, it may be worth it. If you know your group is more likely to be out and about and just use the house as a place to sleep, you probably want to go for a less expensive option.

DECIDE EARLY ... OR DON’T: Good rental properties are tough to find, and that is doubly true if you’re heading somewhere during popular vacation times such as Christmas or spring break. So if you locate a place you’re particularly fond of, book it as soon as you can finalize your plans. However, if you’re the spontaneous type, you can sometimes find big dis-counts by waiting until the last minute because discounted renters are better than no renters at all for property owners.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Planning a move is often difficult, but planning one with children is even harder. Kids and teenagers aren’t thrilled by the prospect of moving to a new home, especially in a new location away from their friends, but these steps you help ease the transition, say experts at Parents.com and TLC.

Start by getting the kids involved in the house-hunting process. Take them to see the homes you are considering buying, or show them photos or a virtual tour. Learn as much as you can about the community and the neighborhood.

Get the kids involved in de-cluttering the home. Go through the house, room by room, and have them identify what items they want to discard and what they want to keep. 

Let kids map out their new room, and choose the colors to decorate it. If they want, let them help arrange and decorate other rooms in the house. For teenagers, set a budget and let them pick out colors, linens, rugs and furniture, and encourage them to shop at thrift stores for knick knacks.

Once you have moved, plan a welcome party and invite a few neighbors with kids to get acquainted. Tour the new neighborhood to locate places of interest to children, such as a playground, school, library, and movie theater.

Moving is never easy for kids, but these ideas can help them look forward to their new home.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Cool Runnings

As last summer’s record high temperatures proved, summer can be sticky and uncomfortable — and dangerous. It’s prime time for heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. But, take heart: There are some ways to. At the pool, on the street or inside your home, stay smart with these tips from MedicineNet.com.

Plan your outdoor workout routine for early mornings or late evenings, when the temperatures are cooler. If you must exercise during the heat of the day, walk instead of run and decrease the duration. Wearing loose clothing in a light color (cotton instead of synthetics) will also help keep you cool. Stave off dehydration with frequent sips of water or electrolyte-filled sports drinks, and avoid caffeine and alcohol.

Speaking of cold beverages, consider putting some unconventional items in your fridge. A spray bottle filled with water can offer a cooling spritz to your face. Chilled lotions and cosmetic toners can rescue tired feet. Also, put some plastic bottles of water in the freezer to grab before you go back outdoors.

Fans, even when the air conditioning is on full-blast, can also help. No A/C? Head to a public place such as a shopping mall, public library or movie theater to stay cool.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

New Homeowner DIY Tips

Buying a home for the first timeis a huge step. But learning to maintain and improve it can be both painful and rewarding. The do-it-yourself experts at The Family Handyman (www.familyhandyman.com) offer the following tips for maintaining your home that will save you money down the road.

Create a homeowner’s journal. Keep insurance papers, repair receipts and all other paperwork pertaining to the house inside a three-ring binder. Storing your home’s maintenance information in one handy place makes it easier to find when you need it — especially when you consider selling the house in the future.

Get to know your house before making any big changes. Live in your home for 12 to 18 months before undertaking any major renovations, since your initial perspective may change. After you’ve lived there for awhile, reassess what suits your needs — and your home — best.

Tackle one project at a time. If you dive right into the porch, a kitchen remodel and an outdoor fence replacement at once, you’ll have the whole house and yard torn up at the same time. It might all come together, but this approach can be stressful on homeowners and their families.

Budget for unexpected repairs. Problems are bound to happen sooner or later. Set up an emergency fund to handle these unexpected expenses.

Ask neighbors to recommend good plumbers, electricians, contractors or other professionals for you to contact. Chances are, people who have lived in your area for a long time can give you the best advice.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Relocation Costs

Considering a move to a new city?
Before packing your bags and
hiring a moving company, be
sure to research the potential
price tag of relocating. It may
cost more than you think.

Cost of living can vary greatly from town to town, so do some research before taking the plunge. Better Homes and Gardens recommends browsing the local newspaper for grocery promotions, ads, and other local news to track costs so you can determine the income you might need. While several cost-of-living calculators are available on the Internet, they provide only general figures and don’t take into account specific housing needs.

Be sure to ask a Certified Residential Specialist in your target area about “hidden” homeownership costs, such as recreation fees, trash collection and community services. Try to obtain a one-year sampling of utility bills for the type of home you’re considering. What can you expect to pay for telephone, cable TV and Internet services? Will you have your own septic tank and water pump, or will the community provide water service?

There are other expenses to consider, such as taxes and transportation. Higher taxes may mean better schools, libraries, trash collection and other community services, while lower taxes could mean higher out-of-pocket expenses for these services. Likewise, transportation and parking costs are often higher in larger cities, while a small-town commute can mean a short walk or bike ride. Also, gas prices can be more costly in some areas than in others.

Moving away from family and friends can mean more frequent phone calls and trips back home, so be sure to allow for those additional costs as well. Before making a move, it pays to know what to expect.

Nearly 189 million roses
are sold in the U.S.

on Valentine’s Day.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Pet-Friendly Moving Tips

Moving day can be stressful for pets, but you can help them keep comfortable and secure during a move by following these practical tips from the experts at The Pet Realty Network and Moving.net.
If moving to a new city, find out if there are any local regulations about pets, such as weight restrictions or whether they need to be on a leash. Make sure your new building or neighborhood is pet-friendly.

Make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date and pack up their health records. Search for a new vet ahead of time and send them copies of your pets medical records. Keep at least one week’s worth of food and medication with you during the move in case of an emergency.

On moving day, putting pets in a safe, quiet place, such as a bathroom with their favorite toys, will help keep them calm and out of the way of movers.

When traveling by car, keep pets in a well-ventilated crate or carrier. For their safety, never leave pets alone in a parked vehicle, in an open bed of a truck or the storage area of a moving van.

Once at the new home, set out all their familiar things such as food and water bowls, blanket, litter box and toys. Update their ID tags with the new address and walk around the neighborhood so they’ll get used to their new surroundings. Once settled, get them back on their regular exercise and eating schedules as soon as possible.

With a little planning, your pet will feel less stressed about moving.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Color Splash

Let’s face it, a home with four white walls can be boring. To create more
visual interest, experts at Pittsburgh Paints’ Voice of Color blog offer some suggestions for sprucing up your home with color.   
Paint the ceiling.
The ceiling is an integral part of the room, so give it some attention. If the wall color is light, paint the ceiling the same color. For dark-colored walls, choose a paint color that is one or two shades lighter than the walls. To accentuate a beautiful light fixture, paint the ceiling red, gray or chocolate brown.
Choose the right white. With so many subtle tones and hues available, finding the right white to frame fabrics and furnishings can be difficult. Warm or creamy whites can make a room more inviting while white mixed with a tint of color creates a soft, subdued echo of the room’s dominate color.
Choose your paint color last. Select furnishings, window treatments and bedding first, then match your paint color to them. Hold color swatches against furnishings, not against a white wall. You’ll get a clearer idea of which paint colors will work best.
Create accent walls by painting one wall a darker color. The accent wall should be the focal point of the room, such as a wall with a fireplace, a set of windows, a piece of artwork on display, or where your bed is located.
Accentuate the size of small rooms and hallways. Light colors can make small rooms seem bigger, but deep, warm colors can accentuate its coziness and give the room more personality. Hallways will appear larger too when one wall is painted a darker color.
Add color to unexpected places. Paint the staircase wall leading to the basement a sharp, contrasting color, or use different colors for the backs
of shelves to help showcase items on display.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Fresh Start

Most New Year’s resolutions involve promises to fit into last year’s suit and to avoid the fast-food lane. But don’t let your self-improvement list end there. These home improvement tips, suggested by About.com, can help make your home safer and healthier in the New Year.

Safety first. Make this the year to be truly prepared by creating a household emergency kit. Pack it with first aid supplies, a working flashlight, batteries, extra blankets, a can opener and some nonperishable food. Also take the time each month to make sure your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are working. Purify the air in the home by swapping out furnace filters every month, and burn real firewood rather than mass-produced logs to avoid potentially harmful chemicals.

Throw it away. De-clutter your life one room at a time. Start with the kitchen: Toss and recycle containers that have long since lost their matching lids, and pare down small appliances to the ones you use most often. Then head to the bathroom and dump half-used bottles of shampoo or face wash that have gone unused in the past six months to clear up space. Finish in the living room by consolidating or recycling old magazines or newspapers.

Invest wisely. Is your refrigerator on its last legs? Saving money to update or replace aging appliances should be on every homeowner’s mind. By saving a small amount each week — say $10 or $20 — homeowners can work toward a specific goal, such as a purchasing a more energy-efficient washer and dryer set. When deciding what to buy, be sure to research any potential cost-saving tax benefits, too.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Winter Selling Tips

While the weather outside might be frightful, selling your home during the winter doesn’t have to be. Fewer buyers are shopping for homes at this time of year, but those who are searching tend to be serious buyers, housing experts say. And that’s good news if you are selling your home. The following tips from Bankrate.com and Coldwell Banker can help you get your house ready for winter showings.

First, pay attention to your home’s exterior. Make sure outdoor lights and doorbells work properly. If you live in a cold-weather region, clear the sidewalks of snow and ice before visitors arrive. Plow the driveway as well as sections of the street so people have a place to park their car.

Holiday decorations are okay, but don’t overdo it. Some REALTORS® believe that a decorated home helps buyers envision whether it could become their next home, but keep decorations light and simple, such as a strand of garland wrapped around the stair railings and a wreath on the door.

Indoors, set the thermostat to 70 degrees. Cold houses don’t sell, and shivering buyers won’t stick around to make an offer. A few scented candles, a holiday wreath and a crackling fire can create a warm, welcoming environment. A furnished, organized home appeals to buyers too, so make sure the beds are made and counter tops and closets are clutter-free.

Finally, be flexible with your plans. Winter weather can change quickly, so listen to the weather forecast and be ready to reschedule if a major storm heads your way.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Hire Power

Finding a qualified contractor for a home improvement project can seem overwhelming unless you know what qualifications to look for. Start your contractor search by following these guidelines from Angie’s List.

Begin by clearly defining your project. Read remodeling magazines and search websites for designs and materials. Even just jotting down ideas on paper can help potential contractors understand what you want to accomplish.

To find contractors, ask family and friends for references, or check out sites like Angie’s List and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) for recommendations. Also check the Better Business Bureau for any reported complaints.

Ask the contractor for names of previous clients and talk to them about their experience. Find out if they were pleased with the workmanship and whether they would hire the contractor again. If the contractor is reluctant to give names of past clients, find another one.

Make sure the contractor has an established street address and phone number where they can be reached in case of an emergency. Be wary of contractors who use a box office address or an answering service.

Obtain at least three written estimates, and ask if the contractors are licensed, bonded and insured. A reputable contractor will usually come prepared with proof of these items. Review the contract thoroughly to ensure that you understand all of the details and how change orders will be handled.

Most contractors require a 10 percent to 15 percent deposit before beginning a project. Use a credit card for payments so you have some recourse in case something goes wrong. Before signing off on the project and making the final payment, check that the work is completed to your satisfaction.

Hiring qualified contractors can provide some peace of mind throughout the project.

Monday, August 13, 2012

No Bugs Allowed

The excessive heat and drought conditions that have gripped much of the country may have curtailed normal outdoor activities for some, but the weather has also created an ideal breeding environment for pests, according to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). The growing pest population has wreaked havoc on homes and everyday living.

“Hot and dry conditions send many pests indoors to seek moisture and cooler temperatures, so homeowners will likely encounter more pests in their homes than usual,” says Missy Henriksen of NPMA. “Even areas of the country that are receiving rain aren’t in the clear, as standing rain water breeds mosquitoes, which can spread West Nile virus,” she adds.

The NPMA suggests the following tips to prevent pests from entering the home.

• Keep all tree branches, shrubs and plants trimmed to create a barrier between the shrubbery and the house. Seal off any holes outside the home to eliminate entry points for small pests.

• In the kitchen, clean out areas where food is stored, and keep cereal, crackers and cookies in sealed containers. Dust and vacuum regularly to prevent cobwebs and spiders.

• Eliminate all sources of standing water around the home, which can attract mosquitoes, and check gutters, windows and porch lights for wasp and hornet nests.

• After spending time in grassy or wooded areas, check yourself and your pets for ticks before coming indoors. If a tick has latched on, use a hot matchstick or vegetable oil to remove it.

• If a pest problem persists, contact a local pest professional.

While you can’t change the weather, you can take steps to prevent bugs from spoiling your summer.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


For some homeowners, renting may be a viable option to selling. Whether you are an experienced landlord or a first-timer, the following tips from Frontdoor.com and USAA Insurance can help you evaluate prospective renters for your home.
First, know federal and state landlord/tenant laws, especially the Fair Housing Act, which outlines illegal discriminatory actions. The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website is a good place to start to gather information.
When advertising, focus on the details about the home, such as amenities, features, number of bedrooms and baths, and rent. Providing photos can also help “sell” your place to prospective renters. Show your house at its best by keeping it clean and in good repair. Remember to remove any personal items.
Use a standard rental application that conforms to state laws, and give renters a list of policies about pets, co-signers, credit scores and late payments. Review all applications in the order you receive them, conduct a background check and call references. A good rule of thumb is to accept only applicants whose gross monthly income is three times the rent or more.
Keep marketing the house and accepting applications until a lease is signed and the deposit check has cleared. Ask potential tenants to show proof of renters insurance, which covers the cost of the tenants’ belongings and any damage that might occur to the property during their stay.
By following these tips, you can find tenants who appreciate your home as much as you do.

Monday, July 23, 2012


Sometimes a vacation can be so good that it makes you want to move to your vacation destination permanently — or at least visit more often. If your recent getaway has you thinking about buying a second home, consider these pointers from Frontdoor.com and CNN Money before taking the plunge.
      Ultimately, your lifestyle will determine the kind of second home you buy. How much time will you spend in your second home? A few weeks a year? Are you looking for a weekend getaway? Be realistic: Consider how long it takes to travel there and how often you’ll really be using it.
      Will you rent it out when you’re not there? Homeowners who rent out their home for fewer than 15 days a year don’t have to pay taxes on rental income — rental expenses, however, aren’t deductible (and vice versa). Whether or not you choose to rent it out, it’s important to add in extra costs, such as maintenance and insurance — which will be higher in risky weather areas, such as beach properties — and then decide whether the upkeep and costs still fit within your budget.
      Know the rules of renting. Some towns don’t allow short-term rentals, so make sure your chosen locale does, and read up on
landlord laws for tenants. If your home will be primarily for rental income, opt for a family-friendly home in a popular location with easy access to airports or other modes of transportation for a more desirable rental option.
      Last, consider long-term goals when choosing a second home. If you’re thinking of the home as a good place to retire, it’s important to check out local hospitals and other resources, and factor in costs associated with making a home compatible with senior living.