How to Repair Cat and Dog Damage Before Moving

RIS Media’s Housecall
By Megan Wild
Sad-Dog-Couch
Moving can present an exciting opportunity, but if you’re a pet owner and a renter, the normal chaos of packing up could be accompanied with stress over how to handle the damage your pet has done to the property over time. As you notice each thing your furry family member has been responsible for, you might get a sinking feeling there’s no way you’ll get your security deposit back or worse, your home might have lost a significant amount of value.

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to fix the unsightly pet-related problems around the house .

Clean Carpeting with Baking Soda and Vinegar

Even if you have a thoroughly house-trained dog or a cat that understands how to use the litter box, you’ve probably had to deal with pet urine stains on your carpet. However, they’re more stressful if they happen when trying to get the house spruced up for a move-out inspection. Act quickly and use a natural solution. That way, you won’t have to worry about your pet coming in contact with chemicals during your remaining time in the house.

If you’re dealing with a very recent stain that’s still moist, carefully blot it with a paper towel. Then apply a mixture of equal parts water and vinegar and soak it. If the stain is especially bad, use pure vinegar instead. Once you’ve soaked the area, scrub as hard as possible to get down into the deepest carpet fibers. After that, add a bit of baking soda and leave the spot until it’s dry. Finally, vacuum the area.

It’s crucial not to wait too long before cleaning pet stains. If the urine reaches the padding underneath the carpet, the method above may not be powerful enough. You might have to rely on a carpet cleaning company that uses water extraction methods to get the job done.

Remove Pet Odors from Hardwood Floors

Perhaps the home you’re moving out of doesn’t have visible pet stains, but you’ve noticed areas covered with hardwood material seem to have absorbed the odor of your pets. Because certain cleaning agents can be very harsh on hardwood floors, it’s important to find some that are gentle, yet effective.

Vinegar starts removing bad smells almost immediately. Alternatively, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide can also do the trick. All three could weaken the sealant or cause bleaching if not applied carefully or if left on too long, so don’t leave the area unattended.

Improve Wood Furniture That’s Been Chewed by a Dog

It’s certainly stressful to come home from a day at work to discover your dog has decided wooden furniture is a more adequate chew toy than the items you’ve provided for playtime. If it seems your dog is repeatedly chewing wood furniture and eating the shavings, it may be a self-inflicted injury worth consulting your veterinarian about.

Once you’re satisfied the dog isn’t intentionally chowing down on the furniture due to a behavioral or physical problem that needs attention, turn your efforts toward improving the damaged wood. Take a utility knife and cut small, diagonal hatch marks across the chewed area. Hold the blade directly in your hand if possible to maintain good control, and put masking tape over the sharp parts to protect your skin. Then, make a batch of auto-body filler according to the packaging instructions. You’ll probably have to put several applications on the affected area to build up the surface so it’s flush with the part that hasn’t been chewed. However, once applied, the substance dries in about five minutes, so be careful not to prepare too much at once.

Put the auto-body filler on a paper plate and mix it well for 30 seconds. Then, cover the chewed wood with the filler and wait until it’s dry, but not hardened. If necessary, use a knife blade to carve away excess filler, and sandpaper to smooth out the surface. You can also run a wax fill stick over the sanded surface to fill in any remaining small holes. This wood repair method may seem a little involved, but it’s something you can try even without having carpentry knowledge.
kitten
Conceal Claw Marks on Leather Furniture

kittenCats are arguably more likely than dogs to scratch leather furniture with their claws, especially since they naturally need to sharpen them on surfaces regularly. Ideally they’d use scratching posts, but that doesn’t always happen. Furthermore, dogs may unintentionally leave claw marks on leather, especially if they feel they are slipping and try to grip the surface. Luckily, there are ways to make claw markings less visible.

If the area is only slightly affected so the leather appears to have an abrasion, try applying white vinegar with a soft cloth. The vinegar makes the leather swell, which may hide the marks. Using leather polish after the vinegar should conceal mild scratch marks even more.

If the marks are so severe they have created tears, you’ll need to use a leather repair kit that includes a solution tinted about the same color as the damaged material. Insert a scrap of fabric, such as an iron-on patch, into the hole to add stability. Put grain paper with the grain side down over the material after you’ve applied the repair solution. Iron the grain paper as a finishing touch, then pull it away to see the results.

Moving can be stressful, but thanks to these tips, you can stress less when getting the property ready to vacate.

Megan Wild is a dog owner who loves spending time at home with her pup, Tucker. When she’s not on a hike outside, she loves designing and improving her home. You can find her tips and ideas on her personal blog, Your Wild Home.

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Keepin’ It Weird: 8 Bizarre Bathrooms from Around the World

RIS Media’s Housecall
Posted on Apr 4 2016 – 3:47pm by Zoe Eisenberg

From pop-up toilets in city streets to a bathroom surrounded entirely by an aquarium, these public and private bathrooms are beyond bizarre—and you need to see them!

OneWay toilet

This public restroom in Basel, Switzerland features one way mirrored walls, so you can people watch while you do your business. And because the outside walls double as a mirror, you’ll have lots of strangers coming up to groom themselves. Not surprisingly, this bathroom is actually an art installation done by artist Monica Bonvicini.

urilift-bathroom-xln
Now you see it. Now you don’t! These bathrooms in select European cities were designed to solve the problem of late-night partygoers urinating in the streets for lack of a better option. The pods come up at night and go underground in the day – sort of like Batman. But be careful—injuries have been reported for pedestrians unknowingly standing atop the hidden toilets.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This seemingly regular portapotty—located at Jungle Jim’s International Market in Ohio–leads to a pretty standard public restroom. Not quite sure who the joke is on, but it’s an interesting approach for sure.

54caaa884f9ad_-_7-aquarium-bathroom-xln








Ever feel like you’re living in a fish bowl? You will after using the restroom at the Mumin Papa Cafe in Akashi, Japan. For a staggering $270,000, the underwater restroom was built to offer users the sensation that they are “relieving themselves while swimming in the ocean.” Because that’s on everyone’s bucket list, for sure. Unfortunately for men, the restroom is for women-only (so long as you don’t count the giant male sea turtle lurking inside).

Celine-Dion
This bathroom, which belongs to pop sensation Celine Dion, has fancy schmancy drapery, a lounge for that post-soak exhaustion and a stairway leading who knows where.

elle_celebbathrooms_krisjenner
Who thought reality television star Kris Jenner would have a bathroom fit for entertainment? Whether she meant these couches for the bottoms of her fleet of children or a television crew, we’ll never know. What we do know is that the space was created by high-end designer Jeff Andrews. And by high-end, we mean rear-end, obviously.

Slide_7_celebrity_bathroom_complex
Rapper Drake parties so hard, his bathroom is a disco. The lighting and television in the shower mean you can dance yourself clean.

flintstones bathroom







Probably more impressive than this Flintstones-themed bathroom is the fact that it resides inside an entire Flintstones-themed home. The home was built by radio personality Dick Clark who passed away in 2012, leaving his widow to offload this interesting ass-et.

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7 Simple Tips for Superior Deck Design and Safety

By Andrea Davis
RIS Media’s housecall

Decks are great outdoor entertainment and relaxation areas, especially in the summertime, but they also need regular maintenance and checkups to stay in shape. Here are some tips to keep your deck looking its best:

1. Split or Decaying Wood

Decaying wood can be a deck’s worst enemy. Thoroughly inspect the following for rot and decay:

Ledger board
Support posts
Joists
Deck boards
Railings and stairs
You shouldn’t be able to push a sharp object – an ice pick or a screwdriver, for example — through the wood. If you find that pieces of wood are easily peeling from the structure, you may have to replace rotting boards to save your unstable deck.

2. Weight-Bearing Board

The weight-bearing board connects the deck to your house, so it needs to be structurally sound. Check that the board is attached with ½-inch stainless or galvanized steel lag screws and bolts. If nails are attaching the deck to your home, replace them with proper hardware. If there is a gap between your house and the deck, tighten and secure the bolts.

3. Flashing

Flashing prevents rot around the boards of your deck. If the flashing is pulling away from the house — look at the ledger board to be sure, since they are held together by screws — you will need to tighten it. Ensure that caulk, which helps to protect the flashing, is intact. Also, check for and remove any mud or debris. Older flashing may require replacement, and if you don’t have the experience or knowhow, you might need to hire a professional deck contractor to do it for you.

deck image
Photo courtesy of B&R Builders, Inc. in Dumfries, VA
Related Link: 8 Home Renovations That Will Pay You Back

4. Railings and Banisters

Railings and banisters help prevent physical injury that may result from falling from the deck. It’s important that they are secure at all times. Pull on railings and banisters periodically to ensure their stability. Also check their height and width; most local codes require the inclusion of railings at least three inches high and four inches apart to protect children and pets from harm. Older bolts and posts may require replacement.

deck stairs
Photo courtesy of C&T Master Total Remodeling in Chalfont, PA

5. Stairs

Stairs are another potential hazard that must be kept in working order at all times. The risers and stringers, which hold the steps up on their sides, must be securely attached. Also, according to most local codes, stair treads must be no more than 4 inches high (check with your local government office to be sure). Keep objects clear of stairs to prevent tripping injuries.

finished deck
Photo courtesy of Coating Pros in Hurricane, UT

6. Deck Finish

Finish protects the deck boards from mold, mildew and pests. Older, worn down finishes may need to be reapplied. To extend the life and appearance of your finish:

Clean off any debris – leaves, dirt, etc. – that may cause mildew.
Refresh finish in any spots showing mildew or wear; also make sure finish contains a waterproof coating.
Power wash the deck – about $250 to $420 to have it done professionally – if it shows significant signs of mildew. Then apply a new layer of waterproof finish.
7. Loose or Corroded Fasteners

Deck boards are held together by fasteners – nails, screws, anchors, etc. – that help create a whole deck. If those pop up or disappear over time, your deck may become unstable. Tighten loose fasteners and replace any that have rusted or corroded; these can cause wood deterioration. A well-secured deck will not sag or sway.

#home improvement

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7 Important Home Renovation Tips You Might’ve Missed

RIS Media’s housecall Blog
by Andrea Davis

shock_home_improvement

New year, new you, right? Sure! If you’re like most people, the new year is chock-full of health- and wellness-related resolutions–but why stop there? Your home could use some improvements in the new year too. If a major home improvement is on your list of resolutions, it pays to have your plans established before you get started. So, to avoid your renovations becoming irritations, here are some budgeting and organizational guidelines to help you get where you’re going:

1. Prioritize by necessity.

It’s important to tackle any serious home maintenance problems before an aesthetic remodel begins. If you plan to renovate an entire space, practical improvements will be handled as construction moves forward. But, if your project is strictly design-based, running into overlooked structural problems will mean additional costs.

2. Weigh the costs of hiring a pro.

Depending on the scope of your project, hiring a professional is a good idea. If you’re repainting an accent wall, consider it DIY-able. But, with projects like additions and remodels, or major installations (HVAC, plumbing or new lighting) a pro is an absolute must. A professional will work according to deadlines, save you money on materials and avoid major mistakes that will drastically change the timeline (and cost) of your renovation.

3. Time the project realistically.

If you need a contractor, it’s important to book a job several months in advance (this especially applies to local remodeling contractors). Before you book a contractor, make sure you understand your project’s timeline. Lofty expectations for a completion date will make your remodel difficult for everyone involved.

4. Check on permits.

Codes vary from city-to-city, so investigating local ordinances is extremely important for your renovation timeline. Permits are not free–budget accordingly and rely on your contractor to acquire any necessary paperwork.

5. Keep a “slush fund” handy.

Setbacks are a part of any renovation. If your house is particularly old or has some (loveable) quirks, your timeline shouldn’t be overly rigid–allow some leeway for hangups. Also, it’s important to setup a secondary account to cover any unforeseen problems. A contractor will help you address any issues that pop-up and quote them accordingly.

6. Avoid reusing materials.

If you hire a general contractor, materials usually clock in at a cheaper price. But, if you decide to buy your own materials it’s important to avoid reused items. Beware of salvaged material as well–while recovered items are fine for certain projects (building furniture from reclaimed wood is a popular alternative to buying new pieces), the quality of salvage is never certain. Allowing your contractor to purchase new materials is always preferable to any other alternatives.

7. Be prepared to move out.

If your renovation is extensive, moving out for the duration (or at least the loud part) of the remodel is strongly recommended. Aside from the volume and mess, there can be fumes and emissions that are unhealthy–especially for young children. Also, it can be difficult for the contractor to work around your sleep/work schedule.
#home renovation

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Questions to Ask Before Overhauling Your Bedroom Closets

By Lea Schneider
RealEstateBook Blog Spot

As a professional organizer, my clients are often frustrated by their closets and overwhelmed by piles of garments. They seek me out for answers to their storage dilemmas, and they are usually surprised when I deliver a list of questions in response.
Those questions, based on years of experience as a professional organizer, are the basis for building terrific storage solutions.

1-Storage-Hallway

A great custom closet should be designed and organized to suit the way you live and the way you think. The very reason the generic closet you have now isn’t really working is that it wasn’t designed with you in mind.

Closet designers and contractors are wizards at taking a space and creating storage in many different ways. Because there are so many variations, in order for them to work their magic in a way you will love, you need to be able to convey to them what you want.

Before you inquire about a custom closet project, start by asking yourself these 12 questions. The answers you come up with will help build a closet that truly suits you, and help you explain to experts the kind of storage you need.

Does more than one person share the closet? If the answer is yes, you’ll want to answer these questions separately for each person using the closet. The two sides of a shared closet do not have to be a mirror image of each other. A custom design can and should take in the needs of both people.

3-Hidden-Storage

Do you love or detest hangers? Some people love to see everything hanging up. Other people are happiest with their clothes folded and stacked, and without smart storage, they end up piling them in chairs and even on the floor.
How tall are you? If anyone using the closet is tall, the bars should be raised so garments have plenty of room without dragging the ground or getting entangled in hangers on the lower bar. Likewise, if you are smaller in stature, you may wish bars to be lower so you can easily use them without a stepstool.

How many garments do you plan to hang in your closet? An accurate count of your hanging garments (plus things you wish were hanging) can best help your designer meet your needs. A foot of hanging bar space may hold about 10 dress shirts or 5-6 suits or dresses.

How many long garments do you have? By long, I mean anything that cannot hang on a double bar without dragging. If you prefer to hang trousers or slacks by the waist with clip-style hangers, you’ll need to count these in your long garments.

3-Hidden-Storage

Are you ‘hidden storage’ or ‘open storage’ minded? Getting organized means different things to different people. While some would prefer for clothing to be put into drawers or armoires with doors that close, so clothing is hidden from sight, another group could simply not function that way. These folks do best if they can see and find items stacked on open shelving.

What do you have a lot of? You may have a collection because you love it, such as purses, or maybe the weather where you live dictates what you stockpile, like sweaters. Either way, your custom closet needs to be able to house your collection.

How many pairs of shoes need to be accommodated? Since shoes often end up in an unorganized jumble, think about what storage system you would actually use. Are you more likely to hang them on a rack, kick them onto low shelves as you remove them or pick them up and put them on higher shelving?

How many pairs of those shoes are tall? Not all shoes can go on a rack or regular height shelf. Be sure to count your dress boots, winter boots, hiking boots and so on separately, as they will need taller storage.

Would you also enjoy having clothing accessories in the closet? If you’d like to have belts close by the trousers, make a note. Likewise, jewelry, scarves and other accessories can be worked into the design. You can even add baskets or drawers for undergarments and swimwear if you let your closet expert know.

4-Storage-Baskets
What is frustrating about your current closet? Now that you are armed with a list of all the things you want your new closet to accommodate, it’s a good time to make sure the contractor’s plan is going to eliminate frustrations you currently have.

Is there anything not currently in your closet you wish was there? Frequently, homeowners turn to closets in other rooms or storage tubs for storing off-season or extra garments. Now is the time to make sure those items are included in your dream closet.

A custom closet is something you will enjoy using immediately, and if you want to sell your home later, you can be sure buyers will appreciate a thoughtful, efficient closet as well.

Lea Schneider loves finding order in the midst of chaos. Lea is a nationally recognized organizational expert and journalist who writes on home organization for The Home Depot. Info on Home Depot’s closet and storage installation services can be found on the company’s website.

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What You Should Know About Adding Solar Energy to Your Home

RIS Media’s Housecall
By Megan Wild

solar-panels-sky-1024x492
When you sell homes every day, no one needs to tell you what a bonus green energy-saving items are. Everyone is concerned with maximizing energy efficiency, both to save costs and to minimize environmental concerns. Adding solar energy to a home is a great way to do both.

Solar panels can cut down on the carbon dioxide a home uses by nearly 36,000 pounds annually. Since carbon dioxide emissions are the prime contributor to greenhouse gases and global warming, that’s a green benefit to be proud of. It makes installing solar panels the environmental equivalent of planting 88 trees.

You should do some pre-planning to make sure solar energy will fit into your current environment, needs and budget. Here are 10 questions to ask about making your home solar.

1. How much sun can your solar panels receive? Generally, solar energy panels need sun from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day. This does not mean you need bright sunshine, however. It means sunlight should be able to hit your panels between these hours. Does a chimney block part of the available roof space? Do trees? Do other buildings? If so, have a solar panel installer give you an estimate of whether your roof is a good candidate for solar power.

Solar panels receive sun not only from the sky, but also from insolation — the degree of solar radiation the ground receives during a given span of time. This varies according to region. A solar installer will be able to give you an estimate.

2. How much roof space is available for panels? If the roof already has roof vents or skylights, there may not be room for the number of panels needed to give you significant energy. In addition to figuring costs, an estimate can be helpful to determine if your roof is suitable for solar panel installation.

3. What types of shingles do you have? Solar panels are most commonly used on asphalt or composite shingles. If you have other types — wood, Spanish tile or metal — it is still possible to place solar panels on them, but it may be more expensive.

4. When will your roof need to be replaced? If you have 15 to 30 years left on your roof, all systems are go. Most solar panels last 20 to 30 years, with less than 0.05 percent depreciation of energy conversion each year. Most warranties last 10 to 15 years.

If your roof will need major work or replacement in 5 years, though, it makes no financial sense for you to be installing solar panels on top of it. It will be expensive to remove solar panels to work on the roof, and they could be damaged to boot. Wait until you have a new roof to put in solar.

Related Link: A Place in the Sun: Google’s Project Sunroof Helps Homeowners Embrace Solar
5. How much energy do you need? You need to have a good sense of how much energy you use in a year. Either add the kilowatts from the past year’s bills or keep tabs as you go forward. Don’t look selectively at certain months since energy needs change depending on the weather. You’ll need a year to have a good sense to how many kilowatts you need for your energy needs. Then, you can also calculate how much energy savings you can expect.

6. Will your energy needs change in the future? Remember to factor in changes in your life that could cause changes in energy consumption. Are you planning to have a child? That’s likely to result in more energy usage. Do you have two teenagers who will be leaving home in five years? That’s likely to lead to less.

Also, it’s important to consider how your home’s appliances and extras will age. Old appliances can use excessive amounts of energy that may negate your energy savings from solar panels. Energy inefficient doors can account for more than 20 percent of a home’s energy loss. Ultimately, if you want to add solar panels, you should consider your budget for future energy upgrades in your home.

7. Do you live in a house or apartment unit? Do you rent or own? If you own a house, you are free to plan the addition of solar power. If you own an apartment unit, you’ll need to see whether the building allows solar panels. If you rent any size dwelling, solar panels are not in the cards. The owner could install them, but not a renter.

8. What are the permits required? Municipal and state permits vary tremendously by locality. Some require several feet of clearance around the panels. Some will let you build to the edge. It is imperative you know before you engage a contractor. Otherwise, you might be forced to tear down the panels and build again. Check that your electrical systems will be up to code once the installation is complete as well.

9. When can you begin to enjoy the benefits of solar power? Be sure to ask your installer and do research about when the benefits of having solar panels will flow through to your house and your bottom line. However, when factoring in the time it can take to gather the construction and any building permits required, the installation can take from several weeks to several months.

10. What is the total cost of installing solar panels? Luckily, the cost of installing solar panels dropped by roughly 60 percent between 2011 and 2014, according to Forbes. The cost on average is currently $17,000.

Remember that the cost of installing solar panels is offset by a number of tax breaks. Through 2016, there is a Federal Investment Tax Credit that can reduce the costs of installation by up to 30 percent. A number of states and localities also offer tax credits or offsets. It is worth doing research to make sure you obtain the maximum benefit from any tax credits.

Some localities and companies also offer rebates for installing solar panels. Again, be sure to ask about any benefits or rebates that are paired with the installation of solar panels.

Solar panels will not add to your property taxes. Additional taxes are levied by size — so a larger garage or another room may result in higher taxes. Solar panels do not add to the size of your home, so there are no property tax worries.

When crunching the numbers for the cost of solar panels, remember that solar panels will add to the resale value of any home — especially as green energy becomes more and more important.

Few household improvements do more to cut energy costs, make a house green and increase resale value than installing solar panels. With these questions asked and answered, you’ll be all set to embark on adding solar power to your home.

Megan Wild is a home improvement writer who specializes in renewable energy and the options for homeowners. Check out more of her tips on her blog, Your Wild Home.

Nursery Decorating Trends For 2016

by Jacklyn Renz
Realestatebook.com
nursery

Whether it’s your first or your fifth, having a new baby is exciting and a cause for preparation. The nursery, where your bundle will sleep and play, is key to creating an atmosphere conducive to sleep and relaxation. You’ll be especially thankful for your nursery amidst the cries and late night snacks. Here are some of the nursery decoration trends to watch for in 2016 that can help make your baby’s new room a portrait of his or her personality!

    Pastels Are Back
    Statement Cribs
    Making it Modern
    To the Skies
    Bold With Lighting

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Secrets to Successful Home Staging

The Real Estate Book Blog Spot

Secrets to Successful Home Staging
Home → Consumer Resources → Secrets to Successful Home Staging
One of the first and most important steps when listing your home for sale is to make it appealing to all potential buyers. Staging will help to downplay the house’s weaknesses, highlight its strengths, and catch the eye (and memory) of house hunters. Are you ready to list? Let’s set the stage for a successful sale!

Rid the Home of Clutter
Clutter is that dirty little secret that everyone has but wants to get rid of. When staging your home, let the buyers know that this will be the house they could potentially live in clutter-free! One main source of a cluttered visual that we may overlook is our furnishings. As a matter of fact, a professional home stager may even remove half of the home’s furnishings to help the space feel larger. Remove whatever you can live without, while still maintaining functionality.

Prune the Yard and Outside Spaces
Prune the Yard
The curbside view is the first impression that your home gives to homebuyers. Make sure the yard is mowed, shrubs are trimmed, the mailbox and driveway are in good repair, and the home is not needing a paint job. If you have a porch, set it up just like you would an indoor room, adding seating and splashes of color to give off the “relax here” vibe.

Light Up The Space
You want to make your home warm and welcoming from the moment that someone steps inside. A great way to do that is through proper lighting. HGTV suggests increasing the wattage of all of your lamps and fixtures to about 100 watts per 50 square feet. Also, have three types of lighting per room: Ambient, task oriented (such as for reading), and accent lighting.

Furniture Rearranged
Furniture
Often we push furniture as far to the wall as possible in order to maximize living space in the center of the room, but for staging purposes, the opposite is true. Create cozy, intentionally purposed spaces by grouping furniture together. Traffic flow of a room can be controlled by furniture placement too, which will help potential buyers flow through the home in a way navigated by you.

Pretty But Not Too Pretty
Yes, it’s often nice to have a home deemed worthy of a spot in any “perfect living” magazine, but not necessarily realistic. Staging involves having the home more minimalist than your conventional state of things, but the normal splashes of life will make the house feel like a home, instead of an untouchable picturesque piece.

Bigger is Always Better
It’s possible for nice things to come in small packages, but not when it comes to houses. Buyers are looking for a space that is usable and affordable. Use paint colors to achieve the larger look. Brighter and lighter rooms seem bigger. Connect the flow of two small rooms by painting them the same color. Achieve a seamless look by making the drapery and the wall match.

Repurpose and Redefine
When staging, we are making suggestions to potential buyers about what a room could be used for. If there is a free-for-all room in the home, now is the time to redefine it carefully. Some ideas include a workout space, craft area, reading nooks, play spaces, music room, or entertainment area. Any of the spaces are subliminally suggested by decor and items in the room, but keep it simple enough for a person to project their own ideas too.
It may feel odd to come home to such a redefined place, but keep it mind it’s all for a good cause. Good staging could be the make or break to a quick sale.

source: HGTV.com

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5 Creative Ways to Improve Your Home’s Ambiance

RIS Media’s housecall
ambiance
By Mikkie Mills

When you first moved into your home, the walls may have been white with beige carpeting. Although this decor choice is classic for nearly every rental and brand-new home, you don’t have to live with the neutral colors. In fact, there are simple ways to improve your home’s ambiance with just a few creative changes. Take a look at these exciting ways to transform your home and customize your space with flair.

Try Vintage Furniture

Your home’s ambiance isn’t just dependent on paint color and flooring choices. In fact, it also depends on your decor selections. The furniture is a focal point of any living room. Purchasing brand new furniture limits your budget because of high costs, so you might be inclined to buy a basic beige couch. Think outside of the box, and shop around some vintage stores in your area. You can find upholstered chairs, love seats and other items for incredibly low prices. The fabrics that you’ll encounter will be distinct too. Older items tend to have decades-old patterns that can improve a home’s ambiance with one quick glance. As you narrow down your furniture selections, however, be sure to have the item cleaned before you take it home. Vintage furniture can have a lot of dust because of its age.

Decorate Your Glass

Your glass can also take on a decorative look when you try stained glass film. This cover for your windows should be used in strategic ways. Ideally, it should be used as an accent instead of a full-coverage decor option on every window. Select a window that has a high-traffic volume around it. Choose a stained glass film that has complementary colors to your interior. Clean the window and apply the film with strict attention to bubbles forming along the way. In many cases, the stained glass film comes with a tool that helps you smooth out these bubbles. When you carefully apply it, the film should last for many years. The sun shines through the colors and creates a dramatic effect across any room in the home.

Go Green with Indoor Plants

Although you could try artificial plants indoors, they still won’t have the same effect as real plants. Add real plants to your home in nearly every room. There are so many varieties that work well in any shaded area that the choices are endless. Along with adding a distinct look, you also benefit from better air quality. Your home has certain pollutants that leech off of paints, woods and other materials. Plants are constantly absorbing carbon dioxide and expelling oxygen. During this process, the plants also absorb toxins that you’re otherwise breathing in. Choose plants designed as shade-loving or indoor species, and give them a home that they’ll love. Water them regularly and they should flourish.

Lighting Your Rooms with Flair

It’s possible to make any room look fresh and inviting with the right lighting concept. Improve your home’s ambiance with wall sconces along a hallway. You’ll free up valuable floor space with lights hanging off of the walls. You may even use sconces along a living room wall as accent points. Many families are also starting to use glass doors inside their home because of the wonders they do for in-house lightning.

When you want to add a distinct decor point to your kitchen, look for drop-down lamps. These lamps hang from your ceiling and culminate with a subtle lampshade and bulb a few feet above your working surface. Add two or three of these lamps just above your kitchen island, for example. You’ll always have enough light to cook by while adding a creative look to your home. In fact, you might want to connect the kitchen and dining room on a decorative scale with matching hanging lamps. All of these fixtures will draw attention and spark conversations among friends.

Shelve It

Improve your home’s ambiance by increasing your storage space and making a decorative statement too. Add floating shelves under staircases or along living room walls. Use them to store books, but also add in quirky collectibles too. The shelves should appear functional and interesting simultaneously. If you keep a lot of collectibles in boxes within the garage, free up that space by placing them on display. You may have forgotten what’s hidden out there.

When you add shelves to any wall, be careful about the chosen location. Each shelf should be carefully attached to the wood studs or beams inside the walls. Use a stud finder or hire a handyperson to install the shelves. You want them to be as sturdy as possible for all of the weight that they’ll carry.

To realize your dream home, create a budget first. Look at the maximum cost that you can afford for your purchases, and try to stick with that amount. When you go shopping for materials, you can be more selective about your choices. With smart material purchases, you can buy more for your home’s enhanced ambiance.

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Granny Pods: Caring for Aging Relatives in Your Own Backyard

RIS Media’s Housecall

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Caring for aging parents is a growing concern for many Americans. For those among the Sandwich Generation, homeowners typically in their forties who are responsible for their own families and their aging parents, what to do with grandma or grandpa is always a trying, stressful question to answer. While nursing homes may feel wrong or unnecessary, and having the elderly family member move into your family’s home may have its own inherent difficulties, the Granny Pod is here to finally provide a nice middle ground option for families in need.

Granny Pods, aka MedCottages, are 12 x 24-foot pre-fabricated pods that sit conveniently in one’s backyard. The structures hook up to existing plumbing and electrical systems and allow both the caregiver and senior citizen to have their own space while still being available and connected. The pods are quickly growing in popularity and are a win-win for both parties: the aging family member has his or her own space, while the caregiver doesn’t have far to travel to assist family members in case of an emergency.

The mobile homes are built with safety in mind and include many of the basic amenities any adult would need. They include a small kitchen, a bedroom and a bathroom all designed in a small scale space with easy access in mind. The bathrooms are handicap accessible with railings and safety features, while the floors are padded to help lighten the load on joints.

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To Sell or Not to Sell? 5 Signs it’s Time to List Your Home

Posted on Apr 27 2015 – 3:39pm by Maria Patterson

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If you’re like me, thoughts of putting your home on the market and moving up, down or out of dodge all together periodically float through your mind. These days, there’s extra incentive given the inventory shortage in most regions of the country—some areas are even experiencing bidding wars.

“After back-to-back years of a robust housing recovery, we are continuing to experience another year of a shortage of inventory of homes for sale,” reports Phil McBride, COO of John L. Scott Real Estate in the Northwest. “With a large backlog of homebuyers, multiple offers on new listings are the norm. We are seeing approximately 90 percent of sales activity in the market areas and price ranges where we are experiencing the shortage/low inventory, which is sending prices upward.”

National statistics bear this out. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, total existing-home sales increased 6.1 percent in March—the highest annual rate since September 2013—however, the housing supply has only experienced a modest increase, just 2 percent above a year ago. Long to short—it’s a seller’s market.

Still, choosing to sell is a big decision—a decision that requires the careful weighing of a variety of factors, both lifestyle and financial. To help sort things out, here are five telling signs that now just might be the time to finally put your home on the market.

You’ve outgrown your space—really. This is usually the number-one reason that gets me thinking about moving up to a bigger home. I get anxious trying to find sleep spaces for overnight guests or frustrated by my overcrowded closet. But truly needing more space is about more than that. Do you have kids outgrowing shared bedrooms? An in-law moving in? A new virtual work opportunity that requires a home office? These are the life events that really necessitate a bigger home—not the inability to curb one’s shoe-buying habit.

Your neighborhood is booming. While home sales and values are improving at a healthy yet gradual rate on a national level, you may find yourself smack-dab in the middle of a hot market. Pay attention to those “Recently Sold” postcards in your mailbox and talk to those neighbors plunking down For Sale signs in their yards. Contact your local real estate professional and check out comparable sales. If homes are selling above listing price and you’ve been on the fence about selling for a while, now might be a wise time to take the leap.

You’re letting things go. Remember when home improvement projects and landscaping chores were fun? When you’d spend hours happily painting, planting and hammering away? Well, if that’s a distant memory and your grass is knee-high and the porch railing’s rotting, this may be a sign that you’re ready to move onto a maintenance-free way of life. Realize that the more you let things go around the house, the more money you’ll have to invest to get it ready for market or worse, you’ll have to drop the price to get it sold. So honestly evaluate if it’s time for a home that offers a simpler, less work-intensive option.

Your equity is back. Many of us didn’t even consider selling for many years based on the fact that our equity evaporated during the housing crash. But don’t stay stuck in that mindset. The fact is, increasing numbers of homeowners are returning to positive equity. According to Corelogic’s Third Quarter 2014 Equity Report, 94 percent of homes priced at $200,000 and above have positive equity. So do some research and have your home reappraised. You may find that your equity is back and that selling is an option again.
Your life has changed. An important life change can trump all other reasons to sell your home. Growing or shrinking families, a new job with a new, long commute, retirement, divorce, etc., are cause to seriously consider moving on to a home that makes more sense for life as you now know it. Ultimately, a happy home is one that’s in sync with your current phase of life. Make sure you find the right fit.

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Kitchen Design Goes Global!!

Real Estate Book Blog Spot

Every great kitchen starts with great design. Whether you favor contemporary or traditional styles, kitchen trends today draw inspiration from global sources. You can incorporate all different cultural influences from around the world while balancing the practical needs of your family. To add worldly flair to your kitchen, start by:
Getting Fancy with Flooring
Certain materials establish a regional look because they are widely available in that region. In India, where quarries make natural stones easily affordable, kitchens commonly feature floors of glossy marble or other stone. Ceramic tile is abundant in Spain, and a wide variety of styles are available to create the underpinning for any regionally-inspired kitchen design.

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#kitchen designs

It’s Time To Replace Your Roof When . . .

The Real Estate Book

Most homeowners don’t think about their roofs until leaky ceilings and puddles form inside their home. In which case, you end up spending way more than you planned. Why think about your roof if there isn’t a problem?

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According to Metal Roofing Alliance Executive Director Bill Hippard, “Roofers are most in demand following severe weather such as heavy rain or high winds. If you put off doing repairs or replacing your roof until you have a problem, you may find that the contractor has a waiting list, and your problem will get worse before it can be addressed.”
To avoid costly delays and repairs, we have put together a list of signs that you should look for throughout your home. So let’s get to it!

1. Your roof has missing shingles.
High winds can remove shingles from your roof, creating an invitation for leaks. You can use binoculars to inspect your roof without a ladder.
2. Shingles are cracked or peeling.
Even if the shingles aren’t missing, there can be damage. If they’re curling or torn, they’re on their way to failing.
3. There are stains or water marks on your ceiling.
You may have a leaking roof even if you don’t see a puddle. It’s important to find the source of the leak and make repairs before the problem grows.
4. Shingles are discolored.
This can be a sign of mold or algae growth on your roof, particularly in warm, wet climates. The elements are hard on a roof, causing it to deteriorate and fail.
5. Your roof is old.
If you have a typical asphalt shingle roof, and it’s more than 10-15 years-old, chances are, you’re going to need to replace it in the near future.

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A Time for Everything – Winter Can Be Hard On Your Home

A Time for Everything
Winter Can Be Hard On Your Home

The fall Equinox is the time when temperatures begin dropping, sliding into winter. So it’s a good time of year to begin preparing your home for winter and doing the maintenance necessary to keep it in tip-top shape through the winter.

1. Clean out the gutters. SAFETY FIRST – I don’t recommend climbing ladders unless you are very comfortable in doing so. In the fall, leaves can be wet and slippery. So if you do climb a ladder, be sure to restrain it from movement. At the base of the ladder I will drive two 18” pieces of metal rebar into the ground at the base of the ladder, then use some webbing or other bungee cords to keep the ladder from kicking out at the base. If you’ve seen my inspections, I use a bungee cord at the top to fasten the ladder to the gutter in case I slip, the ladder will not move and hopefully stop my fall. I would prefer to hire someone experienced and insured to clean my gutters but not everyone wants to hire someone, especially when it often has to be done several times before the snow falls. There are dozens of gutter covers; some good, some not so good. Do your homework before you invest. Regardless of whether or not you hire someone or you do it yourself, clean gutters are important to help minimize the risk of Ice Dams and subsequent leaks into your home. If your gutters are clogged with leaves, the debris can freeze into a big, icy mass, that could get under shingles and damage your roof. If you decide to clean your own gutters, you’ll need to put on some work gloves. Then you’re ready to scoop out the leaves & miscellaneous debris. which will allow water to drain. Some people like using a leaf blower and this will speed things up. But you will probably still need to use your hands to remove the sludge & grime that builds up over the spring and summer.

2. Have the HVAC system serviced. Winter can be hard on heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. According to EnergyStar standards, HVAC systems perform much more efficiently when properly maintained. If it’s been a year or more since your HVAC system was serviced, call a licensed professional to perform yearly maintenance checks.

For about $80 to $100, a HVAC contractor will inspect your heating system to be sure it is clean and in good repair, and that it can achieve its manufacturer-rated efficiency. The inspection also measures carbon-monoxide leakage.

Check your furnace filter monthly. Change it if the filter is clogged with dust or dander, or if it’s damaged in any way. If you use the wider 4-5″ filters that are often changed every 6-12 months, you should still check them every few months, especially if you have pets that shed.

If you act soon, you’ll minimize the chance of being put at the end of a long line for repairs on the coldest day of the year. Look for a HVAC contractor that belongs to the Air Conditioning Contractors of America and employs technicians certified by the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) program.

3. Protect exposed pipes. Do you have any pipes exposed to the outside or are in an unheated area of the basement or crawl space? If so, these are potential problems. Water inside the pipes can freeze and cause the pipe to burst when temperatures drop below freezing. Get pipe insulation from the local hardware store; cut it to fit the length of the pipe, wrap it around the pipe and secure it with duct tape, if needed. I installed frost free hose bibbs on my home, but it’s still a good idea to turn off the isolation valves typically found in the basement within a few feet of the outside hose bibb. Don’t forget to add the hose bibb vacuum breakers (about $5.00 and up).

4. Prevent door locks from freezing. If the doors to your home are directly exposed to the elements or if your car is left outside (not in a heated garage), consider picking up some powdered-graphite lubricant from the hardware store. Spray the lubricant into the door lock (where the key goes in), then turn the key in the lock. Doing this every season lubricates the pins inside the locks and helps keep your door locks from freezing up.

5. Mulch your flower beds. Sometime before the new year and definitely before the coldest winter temps hit, add a layer of hardwood mulch to all of the flower beds. The mulch acts as insulation and helps regulate changes in soil temperatures, protecting the roots from significant damage.

6. Check for and seal air drafts. It’s important to find and seal the air leaks and drafts you find in your home because if you don’t, it can cost you big money. Air leaks make your heating and cooling system use more energy and work harder to do the job you want it to do. The Candle Test is one way to determine if you have drafty windows, doors and baseboards. On a windy day, light a candle and run it along the sides of the exterior windows, door and baseboards. If the candle flame wavers, you have an air leak. To seal the leaks, pick up white or clear paintable caulking and weather stripping or window-film kits from your local hardware store. For baseboards, clean and dry the area with a paper towel. Then, using the caulking, fill in gaps between the trim and the floor with an even bead. Smooth with a caulking tool or a plastic spoon, then remove the excess with a mildly soapy damp cloth. To seal drafty windows and doors, use weather stripping (around the frame) or window-film kits (over the glass).

7. Reverse the Airflow on Ceiling Fan. Use ceiling fans to reverse the airflow. In summer, you want air blowing downward for a cooling effect. Reverse the fan in winter so that it circulates the hot air around the room. This works especially well in rooms with high ceilings. Hot air rises and collects near the ceiling, so bring it down where people gather. I personally keep the fans blowing upward all year round as it still circulates the air just fine for my preference.

I hope you’ve found this helpful. If so, feel free to share it with friends and family.

Do it once, do it right.

Donn Anderson
Certified Master Inspector®

100 Things you can do month by month to keep your home maintained

OCTOBER
74 Look for creosote buildup in fireplace flues
75 Get Winter supply of firewood
76 Check water heater and furnace to be sure they are working properly
77 Lubricate and check electric garage door openers
78 Cover outside air-conditioning units
79 Rake leaves off lawn and away from house until trees are bare
80 Store garden hoses
81 Shut off outside water faucets and drain water from pipes
82 Add insulating plastic to the inside of your windows
83 Set mower low and cut grass to rid your lawn of leafy materials
84 Plant tulip or other Spring flowering bulbs before ground freezes
85 Dig up tender bulbs such as canna lily and dahlias to store over Winter
86 Take cuttings from plants you want to save over Winter
87 Apply Winter fertilizer and weed control
88 Clean gutters
89 Make sure drain spouts are secure and clear

#homemaintenance