Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Do’s and Don’t’s of Making Your Home Ready for Sale

The Do’s and Don’t’s of Making Your Home Ready for Sale

Think you know what it takes to sell your home? The Jills share their top 5 “do’s and don’ts” for getting your home in tip-top shape for the market.
Preparing your home for sale takes some effort. By following these tips your home will be ready to hit the market.
Do: freshen up your home so that it shows in the best light possible. A fresh coat of paint, some landscaping and pressure cleaning goes a long way. You want to wow people from the second they lay eyes on the home so curb appeal is crucial. Be consistent from the outside in and make sure every room makes a great impression.
Don’t: overspend on major renovations that may overvalue your property. Be aware of comps and know your limits. You don’t want to spend a significant amount of time and money becoming the biggest fish in a small pond when that fish will still be worth about the same as it was before.
Do: Make your home as inviting as possible- leave a coffee table book open to a random page and a candle burning to give off a relaxed and intimate feel. Flowers are always a plus but make sure they look alive and well.
Don’t: leave out personal items or clutter in your home. Buyers need to imagine themselves living in the home and they can’t do that when all they see is your family and your life. Clearing out and cleaning up will allow them to see how beautiful the home is and will give them the opportunity to envision themselves living there.
Do: listen to advice. You hired your agent for a reason. Let him or her guide you as to when it makes sense to improve and when it  doesn’t. When it does, seek help from a decorator and/or architect. Find the best professional and let them do what they do best.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Mastering the Art of Brushed-On Finishes for Kitchen Cabinets

Mastering the Art of Brushed-On Finishes for Kitchen Cabinets

If you’re a fan of the classic look, brushed-on cabinet finishes have a lot going for them.
Guest Post by Michael Chotiner
Professional kitchen renovators tend to have strong opinions about cabinet finishes, yet there’s surprisingly little consensus about what makes for a great paint finish. I’m a former custom cabinetmaker. One past partner favored the pristine, straight-from-the-spray-booth look; another—an old house aficionado—valued a patina that included faint traces of brushstrokes to suggest that the paint was applied by hand in an era when spraying wasn’t an option.
The fact is that professional-grade painted cabinet finishes are applied in at least three coats, and most fabricators prefer to apply as many of them as possible with a sprayer because it’s faster than brushing. Yet, at least one coat—usually the last touchup after cabinets are installed—is most often applied with a brush to save the hassle of masking the surfaces surrounding the cabinets.
What the Pros Say
Cabinet pros don’t universally agree on whether brushstrokes should be evident in the finished product. Some even take pride in applying paint with a brush that ultimately looks as if it was sprayed. The bottom line is that it’s up to the customer. Visible brushstrokes are a personal preference.
Brushstrokes can give vintage, classic style to your cabinets, and there are several strategies for achieving the effect. Most techniques are intended for raw wood cabinets and involve some spray-applied coats (which I wouldn’t recommend for do-it-yourselfers). But below, I’ve combined and adapted some brush-only techniques with a few tricks of my own that should work well for anyone with patience and a keen sensibility to achieve a professional quality paint finish on cabinetwork.
Step-by-Step Brushstroke Finish
  1. Remove cabinet doors and drawer fronts (if not glued) and take off all hardware.
  1. Fill all scratches, nail holes, dings and open grain with a suitable filler. In most cases, I like to use Durham’s Water Putty. Unlike most fillers, which shrink as they dry, Durham’s expands as it cures, locking itself into cavities and puffing up a little proud of the surface plane.
  1. Sand all surfaces to be painted with 180-grit sandpaper (start with a heavier grit if necessary and work up to 180) to attain a smooth surface with enough “tooth” to promote paint adhesion.
  1. Vacuum the dust from all surfaces; then, wipe each piece with a tack cloth.
  1. Set doors flat on blocks or on another horizontal surface like a workbench or table, to keep the edges elevated. I like to set them face down in preparation for the first priming step; after coating the back of a door and letting it dry, I can flip it over in preparation for painting the front without worrying that the more visible surface will be marred by contact if it hasn’t fully hardened.
  1. Apply BIN shellac primer to all surfaces with a china-bristle brush. If the finish coat will be off-white, ivory or a darker color, tint the BIN to match it closely. Start by brushing the primer across the grain; then, even out the coat by brushing with the grain using just the paintbrush tips.
To work faster, apply paint to larger surfaces like doors with a roller, then back-brush with the tips, working with the grain, to smooth and level the paint. Once the shellac begins to set, stop trying to work it. Give the shellac two hours—or however long your product’s label says—to dry.
  1. Sand the primed surfaces with 280-grit abrasive sandpaper to smooth out the heaviest brush marks, but you don’t have to remove them all. Repeat Step 4 to remove all dust.
  1. Apply two thin coats of alkyd enamel using the method described in Step 6. Sand and clean between the first and second coats. Whatever brush marks remained after you sanded the primer will telegraph softly through the enamel topcoats. Add a third coat of enamel, sanding beforehand, if the color and/or finish don’t appear sufficiently opaque.
The Argument for Visible Brushstrokes
In addition to imparting an aura of hand-crafted charm, many proponents of brushed-on paint finishes for kitchen cabinets argue that they mask joints and defects in wood surfaces that develop naturally as cabinets age. Brush-grade oil finishes are also easier to repair than sprayed-on coatings, should they become damaged through ordinary wear and tear. If you’re a fan of the classic look, brushed-on cabinet finishes have a lot going for them.
Michael Chotiner is a cabinetmaker and contractor who writes about home improvement topics for The Home Depot. He provides all kinds of tips and tricks from resurfacing cabinets to building your own cabinets.  To see a variety of kitchen cabinet types and finish options, visit The Home Depot.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

5 Trendy Kitchen Design Tips

5 Trendy Kitchen Design Tips

HomeAdvisor offers up their hottest trend tips for the kitchen.
Guest Post by HomeAdvisor
Looking to put your kitchen on point with the latest trends? Here’s how to incorporate what’s hot right now into an enduring design that will never go out of style.
#1 Give in to grey
If you want to update your kitchen’s color, consider going grey. Designers have noted that grey is racing toward the top spot for kitchen design color, especially when mixed with white or black. Grey is great for cabinets and shelving, in particular, because it complements the color of many plates and glasses — and it’s also less likely to show scratches and dents than other colors. If your cabinets are in good shape, consider talking to a painter about painting them grey.
#2 Focus on function
Your kitchen should always be functional — and these days, there are a number of innovations available to help increase efficiency. Cabinet designers have revolutionized cabinets and with the introduction of soft-close and button-activated drawers and doors, for example, which minimize wear and tear. And there are a number of pull-outs, inserts and hideaways sure to make any homeowners life a lot easier. If you’re interested in updating your cabinets, consult a professional to see what’s possible.
#3 Embrace tech
No modern kitchen is complete without some form of tech gadgetry. Install only what you’ll actually use — and what you can actually afford. Some options include:
  • Energy-saving, sensor-activated lights
  • Meat thermometers that plug into your smartphone
  • Hands-free faucets
  • A digital counter to keep track of how long food’s been open
  • Smart countertops that can measure the weight of food
  • Bluetooth-enabled frying pans
  • Remote-controlled crock pots
#4 Go with the flow
Your house has a flow; the rooms are designed to integrate into one another — dining room, living room, etc. Keep the integration of your kitchen in mind when you’re designing, and achieve a flowing aesthetic with:
  • Appliances that blend with cabinets or shelving
  • Books, vases, servingware and other pieces complementary to those in other rooms.
  • A color scheme that extends or balances the colors used throughout the rest of the house.
#5 Maximize your space
Everything in your kitchen should have and do a job. Storage should be sleek and efficient, making the most of every nook and cranny. If your cabinets aren’t performing at their peak, consider reorganizing them. You might also consider replacing some of your upper cabinets with open shelves — a growing trend that can either help or hinder in the efficiency department. If you need help designing an efficient kitchen, we recommend consulting with a designer.
Andrea Davis is the editor at HomeAdvisor, which connects homeowners with home improvement professionals in their area for free. Connect with Andrea on Google+

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Your Home’s November Honey-Do List

Prep your home for the holidays and cooler weather with this list of home to dos that you’ll be especially thankful for.



This month, we’re especially thankful for home. Home is where the family comes together, where we’re protected from the elements, and where love abounds. Your home’s November Honey-Do list will make sure your home is ready for the holidays, prepared for colder weather and loved inside and out.
1. Winterize your home – For most of the country, November is the time when we can no longer deny that the colder weather has settled in. Now is the time to winterize summer tools and appliances like air conditioner units, grills and lawn mowers. Bring garden hoses indoors and check your windows and doors for drafts.
2. Make a Turkey Game Plan – No coach would head to a big game without a game plan up his sleeve. Likewise, no chef should hit the kitchen without thinking through the menu and timeline first. Determine what menu items you can make ahead, decide what responsibilities you can delegate, and take an inventory of your pantry and china cabinet. Oh, and now’s the time to clean that oven, too.
3. Polish the Silver and Dust off the China – Thanksgiving is a special meal, which deserves the best of your entertaining arsenal. Because we don’t often use our special dishes year round, it’s smart to give them a good deep clean and polish before setting the table on Turkey Day.
4. Give your living room a refresh – With the holidays ahead, your living room is sure to get plenty of use. Give the space a refresh by changing out the window treatments for a new look.
5. Use some pest control – Rodents and other pests are opportunistic and seek warmer environments when the temperatures drop. Be sure that they don’t call your house their home by implementing these 5 surefire tricks to pest control.
6. Clear out the gutters – Avoid drainage problems and damage to your home’s foundation by clearing out the gutters before snow and ice wreaks havoc. Here is an easy how-to guide to cleaning rain gutters on your home.
7. Be ready for snow – Before the first winter storm, it’s a good idea to make sure your snow shovels and/or snow blower are in proper working order. Ready to invest in a snow blower after the brutal winter last year? Here is a buying guide from Home Depot that will help you make an educated purchase.
8. Start tackling the December to do list – The holiday to do list is notoriously the longest of the year. Get a head start by ordering your holiday cards, updating your address book, and making a gift wish list for each of your family members NOW. You can even start stringing twinkle lights on your shrubbery before the deep chill sets in. After all, the most important part of the holidays is taking the time to enjoy our family and friends.
Next month we’ll cover everything you’ll need to know to make your home holiday ready.  Until then, Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Fall Entertaining Ideas You Won’t Want to Miss

Fall Entertaining Ideas You Won’t Want to Miss

Fall is a fun, festive time of year in North Texas. This is the time of year to gather with friends and family, so make your home festive and welcoming. Try out some these fall entertaining ideas to make the most of the season ahead.
With autumn in full swing, it helps to have a few fall entertaining ideas up your sleeve. This is the time of year to gather with friends and family, so make your home festive and welcoming. Whether you want to throw an elaborate fall harvest party in your DFW home, or you’re looking to do something a little more low-key, we have you covered with some fun ideas fit for the season ahead.
Play Up the Pumpkins
‘Tis the season for pumpkins galore, so embrace them as you plan your fall entertaining ideas. One clever way to work these orange orbs into a fall party is to hollow them out and use them as serving bowls. They’re the perfect containers for poppable snacks such as trail mix or chips. To really add some seasonal style, set the pumpkin atop a bed of twigs and fall berries. Check out Hall’s Pumpkin Farm in the heart of the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex to load up on pumpkins of all sizes.
Bring On the Hay
Here’s an easy way to add some Texas flair to your fall party: Use bales of hay as outdoor seating. Guests will love the homey feel they bring, and your fall-themed fiesta will score extra points for having some real downhome charm. Arrange your hay-bale seating in a circle or around a focal point in your backyard, such as a fire pit or a tree strung with lights.
Embrace Fall Foliage
When leaves turn rust red or vibrant orange, incorporate them into your decor. String them across your fireplace mantel using rustic twine, or wrap them around silverware at your table’s place settings. Another idea is to write guests’ names on large leaves using a silver marker. Set them atop plates as perfect-for-fall place settings.
Don’t Forget the Fun and Games
Make some memories at your harvest party by organizing some fall-specific activities. You could have a station where guests bob for apples and then an area for them to decorate their own caramel apples. They might be good enough to rival those from local favorite, Jim and Lor’s Candy Store. Another clever idea is to set up a “bowling between the bales” activity. If you’re already hauling some bales of hay into your backyard, get double the use by using them for seating and games.
Fall is a fun, festive time of year, and in North Texas, it’s a great time to invite friends over to your home. Try out some of these fall entertaining ideas to make the most of the season ahead.
Image Source: Flickr/HomeSpot HQ

Thursday, October 29, 2015

What You Need to Know about September Housing Numbers

What You Need to Know about September Housing Numbers

Home sales rebounded in September; highlights from the latest housing report from the National Association of Realtors
The housing market came back strong in September, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Its monthly report on existing home sales marked the year-over-year gain as 8.8% with the seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.55 million existing homes sold.
“September home sales bounced back solidly after slowing in August,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “[This is] is the second highest pace since February 2007. While current price growth around 6 percent is still roughly double the pace of wages, affordability has slightly improved since the spring and is helping to keep demand at a strong and sustained pace.”
Yun is optimistic despite September inventory shortages, which decreased 2.6 percent to 2.21 million existing homes available. “Despite shortages, the housing market has made great strides this year, backed by an increasing share of pent-up sellers realizing the increased equity they’ve gained from rising home prices and using it towards trading up or moving into a smaller home,” he said.
Recently, NAR President Chris Polychron testified in support of the U.S. House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance to pass the “Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2015.” According to Polychron, the bill will help to expand homeownership opportunities and includes changes to current housing policies that limit flexible and affordable financing needed by many first-time buyers. Realtors are hoping the new policy will help sustain the housing market’s upward climb into 2016.
The monthly NAR report also showed that single-family home sales are up 9.6 percent from a year ago at 4.93 million with a median home price of $223,500.
September’s housing rebound helped boost all regional existing home sales. The Northern region rose 8.6 percent to 760,000, while the South climbed 3.8 percent to an annual rate of 2.21 million in September.
September’s housing rebound means existing home sales have now increased year-over-year for 12 consecutive months.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Tips on Narrowing Down Where to Buy a Vacation Home

Tips on Narrowing Down Where to Buy a Vacation Home

Thinking about buying a vacation home? Consider these suggestions on finding the perfect destination.
So maybe you’ve been thinking about buying a vacation home after that amazing time you had this summer with the family, but you’re wondering if that destination is the place to put down your vacation roots. As a child, my family traveled each summer to the Great Smoky Mountains, and when I chose to attend college in Western North Carolina, it made perfect sense to my parents to purchase a home in this area. At the time they thought it would be a vacation home, but they eventually fell in love with the area and moved there permanently.
The original plan was finding a home in Asheville because that was the town they knew best. But after exploring the area, they soon learned that their budget prevented them from affording this market. Perhaps you too have been wondering how to identify which area is best for your vacation home purchase. Here are some things to consider when trying to determine where to buy a vacation home.
Google Maps. Take some time on Google Maps to look around the region you’ve identified as your vacation home destination. Maybe you’ve been vacationing for a few years on St. Simons Island and dream about having your own place on the Golden Isles of Georgia. But there are so many other wonderful (and perhaps more affordable markets) on the Georgia and South Carolina coast that you may be missing. Get to know the region and make a list of all the possible cities that provide access to that “thing” that makes you keep coming to this area.
Market Research. Now that you’ve pulled together a list of other cities to consider, do some research on each of the markets. Some initial things to find out would be:
  • Short-term rental demands and occupancy rates
  • Tourism demographics (Is it growing or declining?)
  • Medium sales price for vacation homes (also try to find historic information to determine market growth or decline)
  • Inventory levels of vacation homes for sale
  • New housing construction projects
  • What are people saying about each community on sites like TripAdvisor.com
Here’s to Another Trip. Most of us go on vacation and typically never leave the area we’ve come to visit. But now that you’ve done your research and identified other communities to consider, it’s time to go visit. Reach out to a local real estate agent in those markets to show you some properties that are currently for sale to give you a better idea of each market’s inventory. Also try to set up appointments with property management companies while you are in town to explore your options if you choose to rent your vacation home while you’re not using it.
Main image credit: Flickr user MaxGag