Luxe for less!

5 Ways to Design a Luxe Room for Less

Adding style to interiors doesn’t necessarily require wads of cash. Whether you prefer to keep money in the bank or desire to incorporate creative solutions, updating your home while saving money can be rewarding. From shopping your own space, to finding amazing lighting or re-purposing found items, consider these tips and tricks to create a luxe room — without breaking the bank.

Let there be light

kitchen lights

Does that dated, fluorescent light box in your kitchen have you feeling less than chic and savvy? Good news is that you have the electrical junction box already installed to connect a design-driven fixture instead. Whether you use a surface-mounted version or a sparkling chandelier, your kitchen will go from drab to fab in just a few minutes, and for not a ton of money.

Play out of the box

A black door is unexpected and chic. Source: ZIllow Digs

Acquaint yourself with other designer tricks, like painting interior doors black — instead of standard white — and adding architectural molding to less than lively spaces. You will soon be on your way to creating a rich-looking space without spending a lot of dough.

Pump up the details

Over-stuffed pillows are an easy luxe addition. Source: Kerrie Kelly

3 deal breakers (literally!)…

3 Big Reasons Why Real Estate Deals Collapse

instability  in the market ...

Real estate deals are never done until the deed is recorded. Until that time, a real estate transaction can be a topsy-turvy ride filled with red flags, bumps in the road and unexpected issues that need to be addressed, both on the side of the buyer and the seller.

The best way to prevent deals from going sideways is to prepare as best you can. All parties involved -buyer, seller and agents — need to do as much due diligence as possible before getting into the transaction. This may sometimes include having tough conversations, doing some work upfront and being open to collaborating when things get a little challenging.

Here are some of the biggest places where deals can get hung up – and how to avoid them.

Appraisal Issues: Homes not appraising at the contract value have been a problem since the housing crisis and will likely continue to plague the industry for years to come. Particularly in strong markets, where multiple buyers compete for the same property, the price sometimes creates a new comp for

If the buyer wants to buy, and the seller wants to sell, it means compromising, particularly for the seller.

the area. Even if multiple buyers have offered to pay a price, a third-party appraiser, who isn’t part of the deal, sometimes won’t agree on the seller’s price.

The best way to avoid appraisal issues is for banks and buyers to work closely once a deal is in contract. If you have a hot property that hit a number that the comps may not support, start speaking to the mortgage professional. Understand the appraisal process and make sure the listing agent is present at the time of the appraisal to tell the story to the appraiser. Seeing a contract price and address on paper is one thing. But to know there were 100 people through the home in three days and six offers received provides color and context.

Inspection Problems: It’s the call no buyer’s agent, seller or seller’s agent wants to get: The inspector found some major problems with the home. When that happens, the deal can easily fall apart.

Lounging on the cheap or in luxury?

Calculating the Cost of a Deck or Patio

home exterior patio with wooden ...
ShutterstockA new or revamped patio or deck could increase your home’s value and your household’s quality of life.

If you’re a homeowner with nothing special outside your back door, you’ve probably felt the pang of patio or deck envy. You go to a friend’s house, and he has an incredible layout in his backyard. Someone is grilling, and friends and family are lounging in comfortable chairs on the patio. Everyone’s laughing and having fun, and you remember your own place and think: I want this.

So how much does a patio or deck cost? And what should you know before building one? Here are some basic blueprints to go over before you get too deep into daydreaming and planning.

A low-frills patio or deck is pretty cheap. Everyone’s definition of cheap is different, but decks can be had for as low as $1,000, according to Jessica Piha, a spokeswoman for, a website that helps homeowners find the right contractor. But the average deck costs $8,300, Piha says.
And how much is a cheap patio? The cost to install a 200-square-foot concrete patio is about $740 to $840 on average, according to, an online reference for home projects.

But here’s why you probably won’t buy a cheap patio. If you’re pining over someone’s patio, you presumably don’t want a concrete slab. You probably want something like attractive patio pavers (flat stones) or rocks to tread upon.

Home improvement chain stores sell the patio pavers for around a buck and upward. If you need, say, 800 inexpensive patio pavers for a 200-square-foot patio, that will generally equate to the price of a concrete patio. Not too bad, until you factor in the price of hiring someone to put them in the ground and any other extras your patio might need. places the average cost of a 230-square-foot patio that uses patio stones from about $2,850 to $3,540. Want flagstone instead? Expect to pay between $3,530 and $4,440.

Curb appeal doesn’t stop at the curb…

Why Interior Design Is Essential When Listing Your Home | link

luxurious living room Why Interior Design Is Essential When Listing Your Home


The decision to list your home for resale is a big one. No doubt it came about after much thought, weighing pros and cons, and series of long discussions. However, once you decide to put your home on the market, get ready for the next big discussion: interior design.

Many times sellers assume that interior design is a waste. If you are look to get as much money as possible out of your home, why would you put money back into it just to make look prettier for the new owners?

While this line of thinking seems reasonable at first, listing a home without at least tweaking the interior design can seriously harm your chances of finding a buyer and lower your final profit. Read on to find out why interior design is essential when listing your home.

farmhouse dining room Why Interior Design Is Essential When Listing Your Home

Interior Design Generates Traffic

The first step toward putting any home up for sale is marketing it. When potential buyers look for a home, they are sent listings via email. Each property listing includes a short bio of the home, figures about how many bedrooms/bathrooms/square feet, etc, and some photos. Based on this information, the buyers decide which homes they would like to see. If you feel reluctant in doing the design yourself here are 10 reasons why you should hire an interior designer to help you.

Since buyers often look at multiple listings at once, it’s critical that you make your property stand out in the crowd – and that’s where interior design comes into play.

There are often lots of homes with similar in terms of square footage and number of bedrooms, so the choice to view one home over another comes down to the photos. Given the choice of two like properties, would choose the one that has newer appliances and a cohesive design or the one that looks like it hasn’t been updated in over a decade?

Do “Dear Seller” letters really work? Answer: that depends…

Do Letters to Sellers Work?

Brendon DeSimone | Zillow Blog | June 27, 2014 | link

Signing a contractIn hot, competitive real estate markets and those in which inventory is constrained, buyers often wonder whether a personal letter to the seller will give them an advantage. The answer? Sometimes.

Few sellers would willingly leave money on the table, no matter who the buyer is. The real estate transaction is both financial and emotional, but when it comes time to sell, finance always trumps. Writing a letter to accompany a weak offer, then, is a waste of everyone’s time and won’t get you a “deal” on the home.

Given two similar offers in a strong market, can a personal letter from one of the buyers help get a foot in the door? Absolutely. If you’re a buyer and you find yourself in love with a home alongside three, five or 10 other buyers, a letter can help. But don’t simply dash one off without giving it some thought, or you’ll be wasting your time.

Use the right approach

Find out as much as you can about the sellers and their situation. Ask the listing agent why they are selling, how long they have been in the home and what their experience has been like there and in the selling process. Deciding to sell a home is a big decision and not one that happens overnight. Try to get inside the seller’s head to better understand whom you are working with.

If it’s a longtime family home, for example, the sale may mean a major life change and will bring up lots of emotions. The seller may be attached to the home and might be more interested in knowing more about the folks who will be taking over the helm. A buyer in San Francisco, for example, once wrote a very sappy letter to an elderly gentleman who had been in the home more than 60 years. His wife had recently died, and all of his kids had moved out and had families of their own. This buyer, a newlywed with his first child on the way, talked about “continuing the seller’s legacy” and assured him that he would take care of the very well-constructed work area the seller had built out in the basement. He got the house.

For the not-so-sappy or shorter-term sellers, try to make some sort of connection based on what the listing agent tells you or what you see in the home. Can you tell by walking through the home that you are dealing with fellow art lovers? Let them know. Have you figured out that you are from the same home state or worked at the same company? Let them know by opening up about yourself or your background in a personal letter.

Read more…

Foreclosures costing more?? Time to rethink some assumptions about REOs…

Surprise! Bank-Owned Properties Actually Sell For More!

Jann Swanson | Mortgage News Daily | Jun 26 2014 | link

RealtyTrac recently analyzed residential sales over the year that ended in March to determine what drives discounts in the market value or premiums in the sales price for distressed properties.  They looked at four factors, foreclosure status, occupancy, equity, and property age, using them to construct 24 different distressed property profiles. Each profile was compared to a control group of properties not in foreclosure that sold in the same time frame.

As might be expected, the properties that sold at the largest discounts, an average of 28 percent, were vacant, had negative equity, and were older (but not the oldest), built between 1950 and 1990.   What is surprising is that some property profiles sold at a premium.

Bank-owned properties overall went for an average of 3 percent above market value while bank-owned properties that were built prior to 1950 brought 6 percent more than the control group.  The largest premium was paid for properties that had negative equity but were neither in foreclosure or foreclosed.  Those properties sold at a 19 percent premium. (Note: in the chart below, negative numbers indicate above-market-value sales prices).


Read more…

How do you win when cash is king?

How to Compete Without Cash

tug of warAs cash buyers continue to inundate recovering markets, it’s easy to feel like the underdog if your offer includes a pre-approval letter for a mortgage.

In some places — especially in the Midwest and Florida — more than half of sales in the first quarter of 2014 were closed with cash, according to a recent Zillow analysis.

“Cash is always the deal-sealer and the best way to get deals,” said Joe Spake, a longtime real estate agent in Memphis, where nearly half of first-quarter sales were all-cash. “Just, not a whole lot of people have it, especially in the regular-people realm. The average working person is going to have to get a mortgage.”

Across the country, cash buyers are on the decline, but in some markets you’re still very likely to be pitted against one. We asked agents in the country’s most cash-rich markets for advice for buyers who want to stay competitive without cash.

The bottom line is the bottom line

Cash buyers come in looking for a deep discount, said Tony Baroni, an agent in Tampa, which trails only Miami in the percentage of homes purchased with cash.

“At the end of the day, all the seller cares about is how much money they’ll get,” Baroni said. “Some sellers don’t care if it’s cash or financed.”

Tucson agent Spirit Messingham has seen buyers get intimidated when they go up against all-cash offers.

“What I tell people … is that most sellers don’t care if I give them a bag of dirty old cash or if I give them a loan from a local lender,” he said.

Read more…

Dear Millenials, Parents still know best!

5 Tips for Millennial Home Buyers

In previous generations, many people bought ‘starter’ homes while in their 20s or 30s. The world moved at a much slower pace then. People tended to stay put in the cities where they grew up. They wanted ‘roots’ and the status that homeownership afforded.

Flickr photo by Reynermedia

But times have definitely changed. In the next generation of real estate, we’re a much more mobile society. Millennials, Generations X and Y don’t necessarily want to be tied down by roots. They want the freedom to travel, or to take that new job, whether it’s in Chicago, Los Angeles, or Dubai. Homeownership doesn’t have the same status to them that it had to earlier generations. And, they’ve heard the horror stories of home ownership from those who bought during the market high only to see their home values plummet during the recession.

But there are still many who want to be homeowners. And, the approach is different now, then it may have been a generation ago. If you’re in your 20s or 30s today and considering buying a home vs. renting, here are some things to consider.

Don’t assume you can’t afford to buy

So many young people come out of college with student debt and very little savings. Even after a few years out of college, they assume they either don’t have the 20 percent down payment or don’t have the income to afford a purchase.

That doesn’t mean that if you’re in your 20s, you can’t afford to buy a home. Around the country, mortgage brokers, bankers and direct lenders are lending more than ever. Loan options such as those from the FHA (Federal Housing Authority) enable qualifying first-time buyers to purchase with as little as 5 percent down.

Is it wise to put down less than 20 percent? Not always. But if you’re credit-worthy and responsible with money, you can take advantage of the record low interest rates and loan options that exist today.

Keep in mind that in some markets, renting is as expensive as buying. If you do your homework, you may understand that a home purchase is within your reach.

Don’t go it alone

With today’s easy access to online listings, most people old and young believe you don’t need a real estate agent. People assume that the role of the agent, pre-Internet, was primarily providing access to the “keys.” In reality, agents have always played such a bigger role, one that many people don’t realize until they’ve gone through a transaction. A good local agent has years of intellectual capital inside his or her head.

Agents know the market like no one else because they’ve been inside hundreds of homes, have relationships with many of the agents and have done many deals. They know exactly what to do when a red flag arises. Additionally, the home purchase is both personal and emotional. Through the years, buyers have acknowledged how they’ve let their emotions get the best of them to kill an opportunity. But having a solid resource beside them at all times — the agent — has helped keep them in check.

Read more…

Hint: try baking soda!

10 Pool Maintenance Tips That You Need To Try Right Now | link

Lavish Pool Area 10 Pool Maintenance Tips That You Need To Try Right Now

The idea of having a pool in your own backyard will always be incredibly glamourous. It’s easy to give into daydreams of hosting weekend parties, adopting an invigorated fitness routine that includes laps after work, and spending long afternoons lounging poolside while cultivating the perfect tan.

But, in those daydreams, one crucial element of pool ownership is often forgotten: the maintenance. Without a proper maintenance routine, your pool could succumb to a variety of less-than-luxurious conditions – green water, broken filters, and algae build up, just to name a few. And, no one wants to lay by a pool that’s seen better days.

Here are 10 pool maintenance tips that you need to try right now. Whether you’ve just opened your pool for the very first time or you’ve been a proud owner for years, check out these tips to get your summer season off to the right start.

pool mosaic tile  10 Pool Maintenance Tips That You Need To Try Right Now

1. Make A Skimming and Scrubbing A Part Of Life

Skimming the leaves and debris off of the surface of the water is a no-brainer, but it bears repeating. For a truly pristine pool, skimming  should be done daily.

If you have a bit of money to spend, consider buying a robot vacuum that will clean the bottom of the pool for you. This Polaris Pool 360 ranks middle-of-the-road in terms of pricing and consistently receives five-star performance reviews

In addition to skimming, you need to scrub  the sides of the pool to prevent algae build-up. Thankfully, that doesn’t need to be done quite as often. You can get away with scrubbing once every other week. Just look for any growths and go at them with a scrub brush to keep your siding looking fresh and clean.

Yes, you are covered for meteors!

11 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Homeowners Policy


Think you know everything about your home insurance policy? Is that because you understand the difference between dwelling coverage and personal liability protection? Because you know that floods aren’t covered by standard home insurance?

Think again. You might know more than most, but you probably don’t know everything about your policy — unless you’ve read the fine print and committed it to memory. And who’s got time for that? However you don’t want to find yourself stuck without coverage you thought you had. Here are some lesser known coverage nuances you likely weren’t aware of.

It’s electric

When it comes to problems caused by electricity — or lack of it — coverage varies according to the situation. Two potential issues:

  • Lightning. Your house is covered if it’s struck by lightning, even if the item struck is your air conditioning unit. You will, however, still have to pay your deductible. (This is true for nearly all the situations in which you’re covered.)
  • Losses caused by power failure. If lightning strikes a transformer in your neighborhood and knocks out power for several hours, you’re not covered for items ruined in your refrigerator or standalone freezer. However you could purchase extra coverage for this.

The friendly skies

When it comes to aircraft, your coverage protection can be up in air. Check out these scenarios:

  • An airplane crashes into your house. If you’re at home when this happens, you’ve probably got other concerns. But yes, you are covered for damage to your home should an airplane crash into it.
  • Damage to an aircraft kept on your property. If that plane is yours, is on the ground and gets damaged through vandalism, fire, a tree falling on it or any other reason, a standard homeowners policy typically won’t help with the repairs.
  • A satellite crashes into your house. Every few weeks, you hear about long-dead satellites or other pieces of space debris falling victim to gravity and crashing to the ground. And if one hits your house? Yes, you typically are covered. And manmade objects aren’t the only items covered. Standard home insurance also usually covers harm to your home done by meteors

Read more…

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