Posts for Syndication

Make Your Home More Luxurious

By Virtual Results

Make Your Home More LuxuriousDo you want to make your home look like a million bucks without spending a fortune? You can, with a little bit of creativity and know-how. Here are the best tips we’ve gathered from designers and stylists to make your home look more luxurious on a budget.

Banish clutter

The first step to making your home look more luxurious won’t cost you a dime. In fact, you might even make a little money off the challenge. By de-cluttering your home, you’re drawing attention to your favorite pieces and allowing space for your eyes to rest. You can re-organize your decorations to fit a theme in each room, which will also add a layer of luxury.

Add crown molding

What is it about crown molding that makes a room look more sophisticated? It’s the finishing touch that adds architectural interest to any room. It signals sophistication and elegance, yet can be installed very inexpensively. Even a simple style of crown molding will elevate any room and make it look more upscale.

Install ceiling medallions

Along with crown molding, ceiling medallions add a touch of class to a room. These decorative additions were common in Victorian homes to draw attention to light fixtures. While price points vary, you can find a beautiful medallion that is easy to install for $20 or less.

Decorate with plants and flowers

A simple way to add some life to any room is with plants and fresh flowers. In fact, any kind of natural element will elevate a room, including a bowl of fruit, a vase of twigs or even a bowl of acorns. For a few dollars, a bouquet of fresh, colorful flowers pack a powerful punch and make everything look more expensive. The best way to pull off the look is to either have a very full vase, or a single, elegant stem. Avoid sparse bouquets that don’t quite fill the vase you’re using.

Update lighting

Nothing kills a good vibe faster than terrible lighting. If you’re relying on overhead lights, it’s time to switch it up a little. Floor and table lamps arranged around the room create a nice, flattering ambience. For overhead lights, choose fixtures that add a decorative touch and install dimmers on light switches so the light doesn’t overpower the room.

Choose large-scale art

Luxurious rooms have a focal point, and this can easily be achieved by having a piece of large-scale art. Whether it’s a large canvas or a sculptural piece, a sizable piece of art will create a wow factor in your room that simply can’t be duplicated with several smaller pieces.

Coordinate finishes

If you really want to create a pulled-together look, then coordinate all the finishes in a room. This works especially well in a bathroom or kitchen and can make a room much more luxurious for just a little bit of cash. Replace hardware, faucets and other accessories with coordinating finishes that will make your room look both polished and luxurious.

Compliments of Virtual Results

How to Make an Offer

By Virtual Results

How to Make an Offer

After weeks or months of searching, you’ve finally found the house you love. While it’s an exciting time, it can also be stressful because suddenly the home buying process gets serious. It’s important to be prepared if you want your offer to be accepted. Here’s what you need to know when you’re getting ready to make an offer on a house.

Get pre-approved for a mortgage

If you’re serious about buying a home, you need to get pre-approved for a mortgage before submitting an offer. This is especially true in a competitive market where the seller may get many offers. Getting pre-approved shows the seller that you’re not just window-shopping – you are seriously in the market for a home.

Determine your price

It isn’t always necessary to offer the listing price of the home. There are several factors that will weigh in on your decision. Find out what the comps are for the area, and seek advice from your real estate agent. It’s possible to get discounts on the selling price if you’re paying with all cash, if you limit your contingencies, or if the home has been on the market for a period of time. However, if the market is hot, you’ll want to make an offer for the full amount and do it as quickly as possible.

Prepare the paperwork

Once you’ve gotten your pre-approval and determined your price, your real estate agent will help you prepare a written offer. This purchase agreement will become a sales contract if the offer is accepted. It should include:

  • Description and address of the property
  • Price being offered for the home
  • Terms of the deal, for example whether or not you’re offering cash or obtaining a mortgage
  • The amount of the down payment
  • Details of the escrow
  • Target closing date
  • Contingencies such as financing and home inspection
  • Date of possession
  • Other requirements determined by the state, such as seller disclosures and attorney review
  • Expiration date of the offer

Submit earnest money

In addition to the purchase agreement, you will submit earnest money when you make the offer. This is a cash deposit that is a sign of good faith. If your offer is accepted, the earnest money will be placed in escrow and used towards your down payment. This money is forfeited if you decide to back out of the agreement at a later date.

What happens next

Once the document is complete, your agent will submit the offer to the seller or the seller’s agent. The seller will have one of three responses: they’ll accept it, reject it, or make a counteroffer. If a counteroffer is made, the seller will make suggestions about changes to the offer such as a modified sales price, date of possession, or removal of contingencies. Once you’ve received the counteroffer, you can accept it, reject it, or make a counteroffer of your own. This continues until either the buyer and seller agree on the terms of the sale or the offer is refused. Once the offer is accepted and both parties sign, it becomes a legal contract.

Compliments of Virtual Results

How To Have a Dog-Friendly Yard

By Virtual Results

How To Have a Dog-Friendly Yard

If you have a dog, then you’ll no doubt be spending more time outside together in the coming months. One of the great reasons to own a home is to have a big backyard you can share with your pets. But what if your dog is a little destructive? Or worse, what if your dog likes to get into things that might not be safe? Here are our best tips for creating a backyard oasis that is friendly to your best friend.

Avoid toxic plants

It goes without saying that you should avoid using plants in your yard that are poisonous to dogs, especially if your dog is curious. But it isn’t always easy to know which plants are safe and which you need to stay away from. Some of the most common plants you should avoid include:

  • Foxglove
  • Mums
  • Lily-of-the-Valley
  • Hosta
  • Iris
  • English Ivy
  • Morning Glory
  • Clematis
  • Begonia
  • Boxwood

Check out this great article for a more exhaustive list of plants to avoid.

Create play areas

Nobody wants their dog trampling their beautiful flowerbeds. Although there are several types of deterrents out there, the best way to keep dogs out of beds is to provide interesting play areas. Does your dog love to dig? Then install a sand box that lets him dig until his little heart is content. Consider adding a water feature that your dog can play in on hot, sunny days. Is your dog a runner? Then make sure there’s a path or a large area for burning off all that extra energy.

Use canine-friendly materials

Let’s face it – even with the best design your dog is still likely to wander into areas you’d rather they stay out of. You can help yourself out by choosing plants and materials that will stand up to a little bit of abuse. Ornamental grasses are both soft and forgiving and can take a bit of a beating without looking shabby. In play areas and on paths choose materials that are safe for your dog’s paws, like bark mulch or flagstone. Avoid using cocoa mulch, which has the same chemical that makes chocolate toxic to dogs.

Give them a shady spot to rest

Dogs can get sunburned just like people do. So it’s important to give them a shady spot where they can relax and get out of the sun. Dogs can also overheat easily, so it’s a must if you live in a hot climate. Give them some room under a shady tree, install a pretty arbor, or invest in a fun doghouse. And always make sure they have fresh water available to drink any time they are outside.

Keep them safe

Finally, make sure your dog is unable to escape from your yard. Sometimes, a fence alone will not be enough, if your dog is a jumper or likes to tunnel. Some innovative ideas to keep dogs inside where they belong is to create an underground barrier with chicken wire, line the ground in front of the fence with river rocks that are hard to dig, or use a slippery material for your fence like plywood.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Coping With Moving Stress

By Virtual Results

Coping With Moving Stress

We get it – moving is stressful! In fact, it’s considered one of the most stressful life events you can experience. So what do you do if you feel like the stress is getting to you? Follow these helpful tips to make the transition a little easier on you and your family.

Give yourself plenty of time

If you’re not staring down the barrel of a sudden and unexpected move, give yourself plenty of time to prepare. While it’s easy to procrastinate knowing you have weeks before moving day arrives, the more you get done early, the less stressed you’ll be. A good rule of thumb is to begin preparing at least eight weeks ahead of time.

Get organized

The key to a successful and stress-free move is planning and organization. Make a master list of all the tasks that must be completed before moving day, and work them all into a schedule. This includes everything from packing up the garage to informing your job of your new address. Not sure what to include? Here’s a great list to get you started.

Give yourself a time-out zone

Living amongst the chaos of a move can make you more stressed. So do yourself a favor and leave an area in your home that doesn’t get packed up until the very end. This can be your “time-out zone” when you really need a break. Have a comfortable place to sit, get yourself a scented candle and have some good books to read. We all deserve a break now and again.

Get some exercise

Wait a minute, doesn’t packing boxes count as exercise? Although it can be laborious, it doesn’t really take the place of your regular exercise regime. So be sure to make time to take the dog for a walk, go for a bike ride, or head to the gym. It will help you blow off steam and clear your mind, which will do wonders for keeping stress levels in check.

Ask for help

We all need help now and again, and asking for help during your move is totally acceptable. In fact, it’s probably essential for your well-being. Although helping with a big move is nobody’s favorite activity, you’ll find that the people who care about you are more than willing to lend a hand. This can be anything from helping to pack boxes to watching the kids for a couple of hours while you run errands.

Plan time for goodbyes

Even if your move is a positive one, it’s always hard to say goodbye to the people you care about. So make sure to set aside time you can spend with your favorite people before you go. You’ll find that even people you don’t see very often will want to have a little time with you, which can quickly add up. Carve out time in your schedule for these get-togethers.

Be good to yourself

Finally, be good to yourself. Understand that moving is hard, and it’s bound to bring up all kinds of emotions. It’s OK to feel overwhelmed or to have bad days. Know that this situation is only temporary, and take comfort in the fact that it will be over soon.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Lower Your Water Bill

By Virtual Results

Lower Your Water BillIf you want to lower your household expenses, take a look at your water bill. Does it seem high? Do you feel like you’re spending too much money on something so basic? Here are some of the best ways we’ve found to save money on your monthly water bill.

Install a low-flow showerhead

If you haven’t replaced your showerhead since 1992, you’re literally washing money down the drain. Since the federal Energy Policy Act of 1992, showerheads are required to have a flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute or less. If your current model was made before that year, it’s using at least twice the amount. When you switch, you’ll save up to a hundred gallons of water or more per shower.

Use your dishwasher

It may seem counter-intuitive, but washing dishes by hand actually uses more water than the dishwasher – up to six times more. To save even more water, only run the dishwasher when it’s full. If you don’t have a dishwasher, plug the sink and fill it with water to wash your dishes instead of letting the water run.

Replace older appliances

If your washers are more than a few years old, they could be guzzling much more water than needed. Now is a great time to invest in more energy-efficient models. Look for appliances that carry the Energy Star or WaterSense seal. These often use up to 50 percent less water and energy per load. You might also consider buying a front-loading washing machine, which by design uses much less water than top-loaders.

Repair leaky faucets

Did you know you can waste up to 2000 gallons of water a year because of a leaky faucet? Not convinced? Check out this online drip calculator that will show you exactly how those individual drips add up. Leaky faucets are fairly easy to repair yourself. Head to the hardware store and pick up a repair kit that walks you through the process.

Water at the correct time

When you water your lawn, you can lose a significant amount to evaporation if you water in the middle of the day when it’s hottest. Instead, water first thing in the morning or at dusk to cut back on water wasted to evaporation.

Install rain barrels

In addition to watering at the correct time, install rain barrels to capture rainwater. These containers allow you to gather runoff from roofs and gutters and store it for later use. Most of these containers come with an attachment that allows you to hook up a hose, making watering a breeze.

Use a compost bin

Finally, have you ever considered how much water you are wasting by using your garbage disposal? They require a vast amount of water in order to properly function. Instead, start a compost pile. Those kitchen scraps you might normally send down the drain can be saved and composted. A few months later, you’ll have rich compost that can be used in your yard. Not only is this a way to save on your water bill, but it will also give a healthy boost to your garden.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Avoid These Rehab Mistakes

By Virtual Results

Avoid These Rehab MistakesWhether you’re preparing to sell your home or investing in a property to flip, it’s important to be smart about renovations. While certain projects can definitely increase the value of the property you want to sell, there are some challenges to consider. Here’s a rundown of the mistakes you should avoid on your rehab project.

Underestimating costs

There’s nothing worse than getting halfway through your rehab project only to run out of money. A smart rule of thumb of when estimating costs is that everything will always cost more than you think it will. Be sure to allocate enough funds to each step of the process, and have about ten percent extra saved, just in case.

Choosing the wrong contractor

Before hiring any contractor, get recommendations from family and friends. Collect quotes from several contractors and research them online. Don’t just go with the first contractor you meet. The wrong contractor can make or break a project. Be sure to thoroughly vet them before signing on the dotted line.

Not having a plan

You may be ready to attack the walls with the sledgehammer, but don’t do it before you have a plan. Find out if there are any structural issues that need to be addressed before beginning anything cosmetic. You don’t want to have to tear out that new drywall you just installed in order to fix an issue with the pipe behind it.

Not getting permits

If your rehab involves more than just a few minor repairs, you need to check if any permits are required. Failing to get permits can net you steep fines, and cause problems down the line with your sale.

Using cheap materials

It can be tempting to always choose the least expensive materials, but your rehab project will suffer. Remember – you get what you pay for. If you want a quality job, spring for quality materials that will last.

Making the wrong renovations

If you’re rehabbing for an upcoming sale, you’ll want to consider what kind of return you’ll get on the investment. Some renovations can add sale value to your home, while others don’t. In general, upgrades to the kitchen, bathroom and curb appeal add value to potential buyers. However, spending on basements or pools isn’t always a great idea. When in doubt, check with your real estate agent.

Making too many renovations

In addition to making the wrong renovations, you don’t want to make too many renovations. Having the nicest home on the block isn’t necessarily great for your resale value. Depending on the comps in your area, you may not get the return you’re hoping for, even if your upgrades are fantastic.

Overestimating value

Lastly, when it comes time to sell, don’t overestimate the value of your renovations. We understand that you may have put quite a bit of time and energy into the upgrades you’ve made. You may be tempted to compensate by listing for higher than the comps in your area. Unfortunately, listing too high could make your home languish on the market and eventually you’ll be forced to reduce the price. Take advantage of the momentum you have at the beginning and list at the correct price. A professional real estate agent who is an expert in your market will be your best ally when it comes to determining just the right price.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Sell Vs. Renovate

By Virtual Results

Sell Vs. RenovateYou’re at a crossroads. You know your house doesn’t quite suite your needs anymore. But should you find a new home, or renovate the one you’ve got? While there’s no obvious answer to this question, here’s what you should consider when making your decision.

How much will it cost?

When trying to decide whether it’s better to remodel or move, affordability is a key issue. Do you have enough resources to make the needed renovations? Get estimates from contractors on what your renovations might cost. Conversely, if you do decide to sell, will you need to make any repairs or upgrades before listing? It could be worthwhile to hire a home inspector to find out just what issues will need to be addressed. Once you have all the data, you can crunch the numbers to see which scenario makes the most financial sense.

How long will renovating take?

If you haven’t done any serious renovations lately, you may have forgotten just how long they can take. And if you’re remodeling a central room like a kitchen, it can seriously cramp your style for weeks or months on end. Do you have the patience to live in your home while it’s being remodeled? If not, can you afford to relocate while the renovations are taking place?

Do you like your neighborhood?

Even if your home isn’t exactly what you need, how do you like your neighborhood? Being in a great location has a huge effect on your well being. Do you have great neighbors or live in an excellent school district? Are you willing to take a gamble on those things in a new house? If you really love your corner of the world, it could make sense to renovate your current home instead of looking for a new one.

Can you use your current home in a new way?

Sometimes it just takes a little imagination to make your current home suite your needs. Have you let clutter pile up over the years? If you do a major cleaning, you may discover that you have more room than you thought. Can you turn that guest bedroom into a much-needed office space? Or maybe you can invest in some new furniture that fits the space better and doesn’t make it feel so cramped? Sometimes, all you need to do is look at your home with a new set of eyes to see the possibilities.

Will renovations add value?

Lastly, it’s smart to consider whether or not those renovations will actually add value to your home. Sometimes your home is perfect as it is, even if it isn’t exactly what you want. If you find that your renovations will suddenly make your home the biggest and best on the block, that isn’t always a good thing. You can over-improve your house to the point where it may be difficult to sell down the line.

Ultimately, you will need to take into consideration both financial and emotional factors when deciding whether or not to sell or renovate. Asking yourself the above questions should help to provide you with some clarity.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Choosing a Home Size

By Virtual Results

Choosing a Home SizeFinding the right home can make you feel a little like Goldilocks. This house is too small, that house is too big – where is the house that’s just right? Here are some questions you should ask yourself when determining what size house is best for you.

Do you need all that space?

The average size of a newly built home in the United States is 2,687 square feet – the largest it’s ever been. Americans seem to have a hunger for larger and larger homes. But do you really need all that space? Take into consideration how many people will be living in the home, both now and in the future. Although it’s nice to have a spare bedroom for guests, do you really need more than one? And will you really use a formal dining room if you have a large eat-in kitchen?

How much space can you afford?

Another question to ask yourself is how much space you can realistically afford. Remember – you’re not only paying a mortgage on the house, but also the utility bills. How much extra per month will it cost to heat those large, open spaces in colder months? Will that extra expense make it tough for you to save money or splurge on dinners out or a yearly vacation? How much are you willing to sacrifice in order to have a larger home? The added stress of making those payments may not be worth it.

Do you have time for maintenance?

Perhaps you love the idea of being able to entertain at your home, or let your kids have massive birthday parties. While it’s nice to have the extra space for these kinds of activities, you’ll be living in your home every day. And larger homes require more time for maintenance. How much extra time are you really willing to put into chores? If vacuuming and dusting isn’t your thing, you might want to think twice about a larger home.

What kind of layout is right for you?

Right now, open floor plans are very popular among homebuyers. Some people prefer larger homes with open spaces that allow everyone to be together. However, some people prefer a more traditional layout, with smaller rooms that are separate from each other. When shopping for a new home, take the layout into consideration.

Do you need storage?

Are you a collector? If you have a collection of large items, like antique cars or Midcentury Modern furniture, you may need a larger house that has more storage. When you look at homes, find out how much square footage is allotted to storage, like the attic, basement and closets. Will it be enough to house your collection, or would you need to downsize your belongings?

What feels right?

In the end, how much space is needed is often dictated by what feels good for you. Do you need room to spread out? Or do you prefer quiet, cozy spaces? Take some time to define your priorities before you begin your house search to find the home that’s just the right size for you.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Buying Near a School

By Virtual Results

Buying Near a School

After weeks or even months of searching you’ve found the home you love. The trouble is – it’s located next to or near a school, and you’re wondering what that might mean down the line. Is buying near a school a good idea, or could it be inviting trouble? Here are the pros and cons you should weigh when deciding whether or not to buy a home near a school.

Pros of buying near a school

One of the biggest perks of buying near a school is the boost to your property value. But be aware that in order to get that extra value, it needs to be a high-performing school. Other advantages of living in close proximity to a school include:

  • Being within walking distance: If you have kids in school, it can be a huge plus if they live close enough to the school to walk. It’s comforting to know that they are close by, and it can make mornings less hectic knowing you don’t have to battle traffic to get there.
  • Having access to school amenities: Do you like to run or play sports? Living near a school often means having access to running tracks or sports fields. Many schools allow members of the community to use these facilities before and after school.
  • Living in a safer neighborhood: In general, the areas around schools tend to be safer. They are more likely to have regular police patrols and crossing guards for busy streets.

Cons of buying near a school

When considering the disadvantages of living near a school, the type of school matters. An elementary school generally causes less of a disturbance than a middle or high school. Older students are more likely to cause trouble, vandalize property or loiter. Other cons to think about include:

  • Traffic: The number of cars and busses passing through the neighborhood at the beginning and end of the school day can increase dramatically. More traffic can also cause more traffic noise, like the sound of idling cars and busses.
  • Parking: More traffic means more parking-related issues. Once the school parking lot is full, parents will be parking on the street, which could impact the parking situation in front of your home.
  • Limited number of potential buyers: When it comes time to sell your home, you may find that there are fewer buyers interested in purchasing a home near a school.
  • Noise: In addition to increased traffic noise, you will likely also hear other noises from the school. This could include school bells, football games and even band practice.

The bottom line

Ultimately, the choice is yours when it comes to buying next to or near a school. To get a clear picture of how the school might affect your daily life, you should visit at different times of day. Notice what it’s like on a Monday morning compared to a Friday afternoon. Research crime statistics and see if more acts of vandalism are reported during the school year. Talk to neighbors to get their thoughts about living near a school. In the end, you can feel good about your decision once you know all the important information.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Get Your Home Ready for Spring

By Virtual Results

Get Your Home Ready for SpringAre you ready for some fresh air? We are, too! Spring is here, and it’s time to open the windows and get a fresh start after a long winter. If you’re as eager as we are to welcome spring, here’s what you can do to get your home ready.

Start with a deep clean

There’s a reason everyone calls it “spring cleaning.” There’s no better time than spring to deep clean the house after it’s been shut tight for months. Vacuum rugs and upholstery, dust surfaces and clean windows. Give the kitchen and bathroom a thorough cleaning, dust ceiling fans and clean curtains and drapes. On a warm day, open the windows and let the house air out.

Refresh your décor

Time to put those heavy blankets and velvet pillows away. A great way to get a dose of spring in your home is to update your couch and bed with lightweight pillows in cheerful colors. Swap out your winter bedspread for something lighter and brighter. Add in some color with accents like wall art and pretty vases, which you can fill with spring flowers you pick up at the market. Choose some new scented candles with light fragrances like lilac or gardenia to make your home smell fresh and of the season.

Clean gutters

Cleaning the gutters isn’t anybody’s favorite job, but it must be done. Spring is a great time to tackle this chore and remove the debris that has accumulated during fall and winter. Remove as much as you can with your hands (be sure to wear gloves) and then rinse with the garden hose. Make sure all the downspouts are free of obstructions so they can handle the spring rain that is on its way.

Organize the garage

The garage can take a beating during winter months. Open it up to let it air out and sweep out the garage floor. Throw away any junk that has accumulated and organize seasonal decorations if you haven’t already done so. Get bikes and sporting equipment ready for spring and while you’re at it, clean and wash the car.

Revamp outdoor spaces

It’s time to get those decks and patios ready for barbecue season. Power wash decks, patios and walkways. Clean outdoor furniture and refresh them with a coat of paint. Clean or replace cushions. Prune perennials, shrubs and trees and mulch garden beds. Consider adding window boxes to your home or garage and fill them with pretty spring flowers. Hang a seasonal wreath on the front door and put out a new doormat.

Add plants and flowers

Nothing feels more like spring than newly blooming plants and flowers. Adding them to both the inside and outside of your house can really make it feel fresh and fun. Plant spring annuals in garden beds and add some in pots around the front door. Choose some new houseplants for the living room, bedrooms and even the bathroom. Interior plants not only make the house look pretty, but they also filter pollutants from the air and help keep it clean.

Compliments of Virtual Results