5 Ways to Bring Fall’s Warm Colors Into Your Home

by Alex Thatcher

Fall is one of the most beautiful times of the year. The weather turns cooler and the landscape is transformed into a blazing glory of reds, oranges, yellows, and browns. The season is so inspiring for creativity, it’s no reason why so many homeowners choose to bring the rich colors of the fall season inside.

If you’re looking for some easy and subtle ways to incorporate fall’s warm color patterns into your home this season, here are five easy design tips for you to try.


#1: Apply a Fresh Coat of Paint

The fall season starts off for many homeowners with a thorough home cleaning. This makes fall the perfect time of year to change things up by applying a warmer color to your home’s walls. Just like the annual fall harvest, you’ll have a bounty of sumptuous colors to choose from, including grays, browns, charcoals, reds, gold, or even orange.

Or, choose a combination of colors to get the effect you desire. Best of all, the cooler temperatures outside will allow you to open up the windows, which will help make this task easier and more comfortable than it would be trying to get it done in summer.

#2: Give Your Room a Rustic Touch

For those who love things on the rustic side, fall is usually a favorite season. This is because so many rustic elements fit so perfectly in with the fall aesthetic. For instance, use old wooden crates for storage, take a trip to your local flea market and find some curiosities to add a splash of uniqueness to your room, or pick up a quaint old coffee table. In interior design, everything old is new again, and this is never more evident than during the fall season.

#3: Accents, Accents, Accents

Of course, you can always bring the outdoors inside in the most literal sense. This works especially well if your room already has a neutral tone. Just visit your local arts and craft store and pick up some faux fall “greenery” to serve as design accents. Such things as leaves, gourds, pumpkins, fall-colored flowers, bushes, vines, and branches with bright-red berries add brilliance and ambiance to any setting.

And, you can use these elements throughout your home to create a unified atmosphere of warmth. Add these autumnal accents on everything from your mantle to your side tables. You can even create toppers for your light fixtures, table centerpieces, a wreath for the front door, and foyer decorations. In the kitchen, remove the oranges from your decorative bowl and fill it up instead with miniature pumpkins and gourds.


#4: Break Out the Warm Fabrics

In fall, the temperature starts to drop at night, so this makes for the perfect time to break your favorite old throws out of the closet. Drape them over your couches and chairs so they’re right where you need them. In the meantime, they’ll look great as warm accessories and accents in your fall-themed room.

For an even more complete look, add some richly hued throw pillows, replace your wall hangings with more seasonal-appropriate art, and swap your summer candles for those featuring fall colors and fragrances. If you have light, breezy drapes in your living room, then switch them out with heavier, darker colored or textured drapes for added warmth and coziness.

#5: Bring the Scents of Fall Inside

Some scents just bring to mind the richness and warmth of the fall season. And, adding these scents throughout your home is an easy and affordable way to bring the beauty of fall inside. Choose from scents like apples and cinnamon, pumpkin spice, vanilla, clove, cranberry, gingerbread, hot buttered rum, and others.

Just be careful not to incorporate too many different scents throughout the home, or they could intermingle to become a less enjoyable fragrance. Stick with one or two fragrances, and your home will smell as good as it looks this fall.





All summer I have been looking at my deck, knowing that a change was needed. I’ve been planning a deck refresh for months and after a very rainy July I’ve finally completed my project. Here’s how to stain a deck (and the lazy but effective way to strip and prep it too).


Before we bought our home, it was used as a rental property. It’s safe to say that nothing was maintained before we moved in and the deck was no different. The deck needed a good cleaning before we did anything, so we decided to use our pressure washer to get rid of years of grime (we have this Ryobi 2700 psi Pressure Washer).


Why yes, that’s me – unbrushed hair, in PJs and running a pressure washing. Isn’t that how people do DIYs?

A note about pressure washing: be careful. You need to get pretty close to make a difference in the wood, but don’t get too close or your will take some of the wood clean off. I did that in a few spots, so start far and move to where you’re at a safe distance. Our deck was chipped and a lot of the wood was showing already, so I knew I was at a good distance when I saw the wood changing color. This step also helped with stripped as a lot of the loose paint came clean off.



I really didn’t want to sand the deck. I knew it was going to be a lot of work, and time was of the essence. I was reading a lot of reviews online about the Behr Premium Wood Stain & Finish Stripperand they were mixed. I decided to go to the Home Depot and speak to someone myself about it.

The lady I spoke with, used the product herself and said it worked great. She said to follow the instructions exclusively as the complaints she has had came from people who didn’t read the bottle and did their own thing.


I used a foam paint roller to spread the Behr Premium Wood Stain & Finish Stripper on, the process was pretty quick. There is no diluting the product and make sure to shake the container. We didn’t at first and it came out in a thin liquid, when it should be a thick and goopy consistency.


It’s important to follow the instructions for application, it tells you the optimal time for application. We did ours in the morning when the heat was low and there was less direct sunlight.

We let the wood stripper sit for 45 minutes on the bottom deck and about 30 minutes on the top deck, any area that started to dry (due to direct sunlight) we used the garden hose on the mist setting. When it was ready, we took a deck brush and scrubbed hard. Who am I kidding with “we”, my husband did that part.


Remember this is basically an acid so don’t use your brand new running shoes, my husband wore rubber boots and clothes he didn’t care about. If you’re wearing rubber boots – the deck is slippery, so watch your footing.

Spray off the stripper and you’ll see the paint start to come off! We first did it with a garden hose but switched over to the pressure washer after. It made it so much easier.


The wood stripper got almost all of the previous paint off. There were a few spots where I still had some paint left over, and I should have sanded it off but I didn’t. I don’t recommend doing that as if you’re staining – this will not cover it up. I would say I got 95% of all the previous red paint off the deck. Keep that in mind.



The lady at Home Depot couldn’t stress this step enough. You need to use the Behr Premium All In One Wood Cleaner after the deck stripper. It takes all the remaining stripper off the deck, so the stain or paint will adhere better.


I’m the kind of person who starts a project and just wants it done. I hate it when it takes multiple days, but I also knew that I would be choked if the stain didn’t work due to me rushing and skipping steps. I used the wood cleaner a few hours after the stripper was used. I diluted the wood cleaner in a 1:1 ratio of water and went to work. I used the pressure washer to rinse it off, then let it dry and rinsed it off again. Rinse it until all the foam is gone. Let the wood dry for 24 hours.


FINALLY! We’re at the step where your hard work shows. This step went surprisingly fast and the immediate results made my Millennial brain happy.


I decided on the BEHR PREMIUM® Semi-Transparent Weatherproofing All-In-One Wood Stain & Sealer, tinted in Redwood Naturaltone ST-122. I chose semi-transparent because I wanted to show the natural grain of the wood but still give it a nice color. It’s made out of a 100% acrylic formula, which seals out the elements and sun’s harmful UV rays for up to 6 years on high traffic areas like decks, and up to 8 yrs. on fences & siding. I like how it saves me a step on sealing, it has a sealer built in.


The application was really easy. I used a deck pad and brushed it on, it took me 20 minutes to do my whole deck and 10-15 minutes for the trickier areas like the seating bench and stairs. For those trickier areas, I used this deck staining detail kit. It says to use two thin coats, but in some areas, I used a thicker application by accident. You can’t tell I did that, it evened out nicely. I used a whole can on my first application.

I was planning on putting on my second coat the next day but noticed the deck still felt a little tack so I waited. Then it rained a few days later. So I had to put off the second coat for a few weeks.

The second coat was easy and brought a beautiful finish to the deck. It looks so much better now and I love the results.



What a difference it made! The wood is old, but the Behr Premium® products brought the life back to it. I love the way it looks. I was intimated with this project at first, but my best advice is to dive in and just do it.


The BRRRR (Buy, Rehab, Rent, Refinance, Repeat) Strategy: A Primer for Investors



Our company is a big fan of the BRRRR method real estate investment that Brandon Turner coined and BiggerPockets so helpfully made a calculator to help analyze. In this post, I wanted to give an introductory primer on how to approach this investment strategy, from beginning to the part where you repeat it over and over and over again.

B — Buy

They say you make your money when you buy, and that’s definitely true. Although, to paraphrase Tolstoy’s opening line to Anna Karina, all good deals involve a good purchase, but each bad deal is bad in its own way.

The key to remember when buying property you intend on holding is that there isn’t a great feedback mechanism. Yes, you will get an appraisal, but you can always disagree with an appraisal and who is to say whether you or the appraiser is right? I’ve seen some absurd appraisals, and I’ve seen homeowners believe their houses are worth some absurd price (never myself, of course).

When you are flipping, you will always know how well you did because you will be able to look at what your profit or loss was after the sale. With holding properties, you can always deceive yourself into thinking the appraisal just wasn’t any good. In other words, there is a tendency for buy and hold investors to get lazy.

Related: How We Got a Million-Dollar Property Portfolio for (Almost) Free

Don’t get lazy!

The goal behind a BRRRR strategy is to pull all of the money you put into a property out when you refinance it so that you effectively bought a property for nothing, but still have 25 percent built-in equity to reduce risk. So while you may be looking for a different type of property (flippers will usually buy more expensive properties than holders), you still want to get the same equity margin.

Flippers often use the 70 percent rule as a rule of thumb. In short, the rule goes like this:

(After Repair Value X 0.7) – Repairs = Maximum Purchase Price

Most lenders will finance 75 percent the value, so you could say that holders can aim for 75 percent. We generally do this, but that’s because we have some money we can leave in the deals and are looking for volume. If that doesn’t describe you, I would argue you should stick with the 70 percent guideline for two reasons:

  1. Refinancing costs money. Most banks charge a point and there will be an appraisal, title work, and loan processing fees that eat away at your margin.
  2. Aiming for 75 percent offers no contingency. People will go over budget more often than under budget so building in a bit more of a margin is a better idea unless you are going for volume. Again, we are focused more on volume and so we aim for 75 percent, but overall, when I ran the numbers on our portfolio, our all in price came out to 80 percent.

Now, to purchase the property up front you can use cash, a hard money loan, seller financing, a private loan, etc. The upfront financing is outside the scope of this article, but what’s important to note here is that different upfront financing options will result in different acquisition and holding costs, and you need to account for those when analyzing a deal in order to hit your 70 or 75 percent goal.


R — Rehab

There are two key questions to keep in mind when rehabbing a rental:

  1. What do I need to do to make this house livable and functional?
  2. Which rehab decisions can I make that will add more value than their cost?

Unless you are doing luxury rentals, generally speaking, things like the following are not necessary and will cost much more than either the rental or property value they will produce:

  • Granite Countertops
  • Brazilian Hardwood Floors
  • High-end Stainless Steel Appliances
  • Bay Windows
  • Skylights
  • Hot Tubs
  • Chandeliers

It’s also rarely worth finishing a basement or a garage when it comes to rentals. But on the other hand, two-tone paint, refinishing hardwoods, and adding tile are very often worthwhile.

And, of course, the house needs to be in good shape and everything needs to be functional. Being a slumlord will hurt you in the long run as well as all of our industry’s reputation. We want to rent good properties, but luxury items will cost you more than get back. That being said, there are plenty of value-add rehab ideas that are great for rentals. For more on that, see here.

And as noted before, a little more attention being treated to the front of the house is important. For example compare these two pictures:




The only differences are window shutters, cleaning the gutters, painting the front door, and adding bark mulch. In the next two, the only difference is adding window shutters, but it’s a big one:


A bad first impression can sink an appraisal because appraisers are, like everyone else, human. A first impression effects them in the same way it does a prospective tenant. So make sure the front of your houses are appealing.

Related: Introducing: The BiggerPockets BRRRR Calculator!

R — Rent

Banks rarely want to refinance a property that isn’t occupied so renting usually needs to come first. I have talked about the importance of screening before, and it’s critical to screen diligently so you get tenants that will pay each month. But it’s also important on the financing side. While appraisers shouldn’t take too much into account about how clean and pleasant the tenant is, as noted above, everyone is human and such impressions can make a difference. It’s important not to forget this.

It is also worth noting that you will need to notify the tenant that you are doing an appraisal beforehand (I always recommend you request interior appraisals versus drive-bys as appraisers will be more cautious and likely downgrade your property unfairly with drive-bys). Just send out or post a note on your tenant’s door about the date and time and then give them a reminder call the day before (unless your local laws require something else in addition to that). They don’t need to be present, but you should ask them to sweep and clean up as well as to kennel any pets if they won’t be home.

R — Refinance

Not too long ago, it was extremely hard to find a bank that was willing to refinance single-family rental properties. Now, however, it has gotten much easier. Still, when looking for such banks, there are a few things that you will need to ask:

  1. Do they offer cash out or will they only pay off debt? If they won’t offer cash out, you will probably want to move on.
  2. What seasoning period do they require? A “seasoning period” is how long you have to own a property before the bank will lend on the appraised value instead of how much money you have into the property. For the BRRRR strategy to work, you need to borrow on the appraised value. These days, some banks are willing to lend on the appraised value as soon as a property has been rehabbed and rented. These are the best banks to find.

The most effective way to find such banks is to ask around. Ask any investors you know which banks they use, or you can ask here on BiggerPockets, or go to your local real estate club and ask there. If a bank is lending to another investor, there is a good chance they will lend to you, too.

Another way to find such banks that we’ve used is a bit odd, but it has been quite effective for us. First, pick a market you are investing in, for example, I would pick “Grandview, MO” (a suburb of Kansas City). Then pick your loan range, i.e. “$40,000-100,000.” Then go to a website such as ListSource or DataQuick and search for every loan made in that city and that price range in the last year or so to non-owner occupants. It will probably cost you a couple hundred dollars.

Once you have the list, go through it and pick out all the banks. Right off the bat, you know this bank is at least willing to lend to investors in the area and price point you are looking for since they’ve done it before. So there is a good chance they will do it again.

Finally, make sure to provide the lender with as much information in as clear a way as possible to 1) impress them (remember, these are human beings, not computers making decisions) and 2) help them make a decision quickly. The same should go for whatever information, if any, an appraiser requests. For more information on how to do this, see here.


R — Repeat

Rinse and repeat baby!

If you do the BRRRR strategy right, you should have a cash-flowing property for little or nothing down. If you would like to see a real life example of how we did this, you can check out this article. But overall, the BRRRR strategy is a fantastic way, and in my opinion, the best way, to build wealth in real estate.



Make Magic Happen: Home Staging Ideas for the Bedroom

Jennifer Kelly Geddes



If you’re selling your home and want to use some tried-and-true home staging ideas to make it stand out, you can work some major magic in the bedroom. At their best, bedrooms can make buyers dream of drifting off under the sheets. At their worst, they can wake them up to an idea that they could never, ever feel at peace in your home.

So here’s how to stage your bedroom so it feels calm, cozy, and ultimately irresistible to anyone who sets foot inside.

Keep it single-use

With the exception of master suites with separate sitting areas, bedrooms should be staged as a single-function room, recommends Amy Bell, an interior decorator with Red Chair Home Interiors in Cary, NC.

“A desk or treadmill in the bedroom sends the message that there are not enough rooms in the home,” she notes.

Also, make sure the bed is the right size for the space, says Lisa Gulliver from Showhomes: “A bed that’s too big makes the room feel small, while one too small feels bare.”

A standard queen, which is about 5 by 7 feet, needs a room that’s at least 10 by 10 feet to leave enough space to get around it and add a few other pieces of furniture.

Focus on the bed

The point of a bedroom is not a roaring fireplace or an enormous flat-screen TV, points out Jonathan Rosen of the Rosen Berry Group in Dallas. Arrange the furniture so the first thing you see is the bed.

If you have the space, add a comfortable wingback chair with a stool or ottoman in the corner to create a reading nook, suggests Gale Sitomer of G Sitomer Interior Design in New York City.2

Bedroom staging secret: This is really where the magic happens. Alex Kroke Photography

Refresh your linens

No one wants to buy a house with an old bedspread or rumpled sheets and blankets—so make your bed already! And when it comes to choosing colors, Gulliver says homeowners should avoid dark shades and heavy patterns like paisley. Instead, pick a neutral, light-colored comforter with simple, decorative pillows.

“This arrangement photographs well and looks comfortable,” she says. A simple headboard in a classic rectangular shape is the safe bet. But if your bedroom doesn’t have one, prop up two European-style pillows against the wall for queen beds (three for a king) to give your bed a finished look, says Bell.

Check the lights

Open the drapes at every showing; however, if it’s a night viewing, dim the lights for a warm glow, notes Katie McCann, an organization coach at Maeve’s Method.

Reassess lamps and other lights, and upgrade where necessary. “Have different types of lighting—both overhead and accent—in the bedroom and note that bedside lamps are a must,” says Sitomer.

Clean out closets

Bedroom storage (or lack thereof) is a typical deal breaker, so another home staging must is to make sure your closets are not overstuffed, says Sitomer. There should always be space between hangers, and the folded items should be neat and organized.

Have a spare room? Add a bed

When in doubt about an extra room in the house, set it up as a bedroom.

“Especially in smaller homes, any room that legally qualifies as a bedroom should be staged as one,” advises Bell. If you have a catch-all room and aren’t sure whether it should be presented as a home office or bedroom, opt for a bedroom and you’ll never go wrong.


DIY: Refresh Your Bathroom With a New Sink and Vanity


Give your ol’ WC a quick update for just a couple hundred bucks and a few hours of your time.

You’re tired of your old, dated bathroom, but not yet ready to do a full-on remodel — it’s a common scenario.

Here is an easy fix that can cost you as little as $200 and about an afternoon’s worth of time: a new vanity/sink combo.

An updated sink and vanity will stand out and draw the eye to it, instead of to other bathroom elements that may be less than perfect. And if you happen to be replacing an old pedestal sink, you will instantly give yourself more storage space.

Many vanity styles are available at your local home improvement store. They come in all shapes and sizes to fit just about any bathroom, even the tiniest of rooms. Some models even have a matching mirror to help you complete the new look of your bathroom.


A new vanity can add personality to even the smallest powder room. Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

The best part is you can save a lot of money by doing the installation yourself. Here are tips to help get you started.

Selecting a vanity/sink combo

  • Consider the size of the room and the space you have available for the sink. You want to select a vanity that not only fits in the room, but also is in correct proportion to the room and the other elements within it. For example, you may not want to put a tiny vanity in a spacious bathroom with lots of light. The same is true of the opposite scenario: Be wary of putting a large vanity in a small bathroom, even if the room technically has enough space for it.
  • Select a vanity that coordinates well with the style and color scheme of not only the bathroom, but also your home overall, and any future updates that you may have planned for down the road.
  • Make certain to purchase a vanity that has no back. This will make it much easier to fit the cabinet around the plumbing, and provide easy access for the installation.
  • Don’t forget about the faucet! In most cases you will need to purchase your faucet separately. Be certain to pick one that is an “easy-install” faucet.

Installation tips

  • Allow enough time to complete the project, especially if this is the only bathroom in your home.
  • Before beginning your project, make sure you have all the tools and materials you need at hand. It’s also a good idea to check the box that the new sink/vanity came in to make sure that all fasteners and hardware are there. There is nothing worse than getting halfway through a project only to find that you’re missing a screw or a drawer pull.
  • Install the new faucet into the new sink prior to installing the new vanity.
  • Plan for the removal of the old sink. For example, if the new vanity is a different size than the old, you will most likely need to touch up the wall paint in the area, and possibly even repair parts of the wall.
  • It never hurts to have a helper. You may need help with removing the old sink and putting the new one in place.

With your new vanity installed, your bathroom will look and feel newer and better, and you will have the pride of having done the job yourself.

What Is a Multifamily Home? A Budget-Friendly Way to Own, Rent, or Invest in Real Estate


Greg Chow

What is a multifamily home? It’s a building with more than one unit where people can live, each with their own separate kitchens, living rooms, electric bills, and so forth. Also called a multidwelling unit, or MDU, they are typically found in densely populated areas such as cities where space is at a premium. Multifamily homes can be rented, be owned, or serve as an investment property where landlords can collect rent from tenants.

There are around 4 million multifamily dwellings nationwide, compared with 90 million single-family homes. Although living in close quarters with others may not be ideal in terms of privacy or noise, people in multifamily homes generally pay less than those in single-family homes and are taxed with less home maintenance, because a management company may be responsible for repairing the building’s exterior or mowing the lawn.

Types of multifamily homes

Multifamily homes come in all shapes and sizes. Here are some of the more common designs:

  • Duplex: Two homes in one freestanding structure
  • Townhouse: Any number of homes attached at the sides with separate entrances
  • Condominiums (condo): A private residence in a building or community with multiple units
  • Apartment building: Could be up to hundreds of homes in one structure. Unlike the above dwellings, apartment building units are often rented by tenants rather than owned.


How to invest in a multifamily home

Buying a multifamily home to rent out (or where you live in one unit and rent out the rest) is a smart financial strategy—today more than ever. The reason: Homeownership is decreasing, recently dipping below the 66.6% historical average.

“That makes it a great time to think about buying investment properties, because people have to have a place to live,” says Daren Blomquist, senior vice president of ATTOM Data Solutions, a property data company based in Irvine, CA.

Unlike house flippers, who invest a little time and tolerate a lot of risk, investors in multifamily housing should anticipate owning the property and playing landlord for decades, advises Blomquist, who owns two rental properties with his wife.

“If you take care of a rental property for 20 years, it will take care of you for life,” Blomquist says. “The goal is very much long-term.”

The trick is to expect the unexpected: You’re likely to experience flaky renters and issues with damage. Consider these factors before investing.

  • Cap rate: The capitalization rate is a formula that indicates the potential return of an investment. Calculate the cap rate by dividing the net operating income (how much you pocket after expenses) by the price of the property. Blomquist would consider a rental property with a cap rate of more than 6% to be acceptable.
  • Expenses: Some multifamily property expenses such as mortgage, taxes, and insurance are relatively fixed; maintenance, however, is always unpredictable. New properties, with appliances and furnaces still under warranty, usually require little maintenance. However, properties more than 20 years old are bound to require new roofs, foundation repairs, and upgraded HVAC equipment. These unexpected maintenance bills can really eat into the profit of investment properties.
  • Turnover: Rarely does one tenant leave and another move in the next day. Blomquist says two months between tenants is common, and that means two months without income likely coupled with higher-than-usual expenses as you repair walls, clean carpets, and maybe paint to make the property more appealing.
  • Your personality: Do you have the patience of a saint? Can you focus on the forest rather than the trees? You’ll need those Zen-like qualities, along with some handyman chops, to succeed in multifamily investing. If your personality isn’t suited to being a landlord, you can always hire a property manager to fix things and find renters. But don’t forget you’ll be charged a fee, usually about 6% of your rental income, which eats into profits.

Good Fences: 10 Tips On Dealing With Difficult Neighbors

How to Handle Difficult Neighbors

When searching to buy your home, you probably have a checklist of needs and wants for your new house and location. But do you factor in the potential neighbors? Finding dream neighbors is always a gamble, as you never know who will share your fence. If you find that you’re experiencing conflict or difficulty with one of your neighbors, follow these 10 tips for handling the trouble.

1. Be Proactive

If you’re experiencing difficulties with a neighbor, whether the offender is a noise maker or a careless pet owner, try to prevent the situation from escalating. Begin by addressing the issue promptly: be proactive. By addressing the issue early on, you won’t allow resentment to build, which could make matters worse.

2. Start a Dialog

Call your difficult neighbor, and ask if there is a good time to talk about the situation. Be sure to listen. While you may feel entitled to make accusations, instead, engage your neighbor in an open dialogue and share what you’ve been experiencing. Ask questions, open ones, that could lead to solutions to the problem.

3. Write a Letter

If starting a dialog fails to be productive, consider writing a personal letter. By giving someone the space to process the issue on their own time, you may be able to achieve a better resolution.

4. Seek Local Aid

If necessary, contact your block or homeowners association for help resolving your issues with your neighbor. Be sure to look up local noise and disturbance laws, and cite an ordinance that applies to your situation when you contact the pertinent association.

5. Practice Empathy

When approaching a neighbor with a complaint, practice empathy and consider how you would like to be approached if you were the one creating the nuisance. Problem solve by asking what you too can do to be a great neighbor, and don’t approach your neighbor while the problem is occurring, or at an inconvenient time of day. Empathy can be everything in finding a positive solution to your problem.


6. Start Off on a Good Foot

While the above suggestions are helpful to those who are currently encountering difficult neighbors, what if you’re new to the area or you have yet to encounter neighborly quarrels? Start by introducing yourself, and then here are a few ideas to proactively mitigate disputes with troublesome neighbors.

7. Host an Event

Start things off right with your neighbors. Get to know them — what are their names? Do they have families? Show you are interested in caring for the people in your immediate area. An easy way to break the ice? Organize a neighborhood block party, or agree to host a potluck.

8. Show Old Fashioned Etiquette

Drop by and bring your neighbor an unexpected gift. This doesn’t have to be a large gesture — delivering baked goods with a simple note is a great way to reach out to your neighbors. By showing that you care about your neighbors, you’re developing positive associations that will go a long way in problem solving any disputes.

9. Ask Questions

Another great way to cultivate a positive relationship with your neighbors is to ask questions. This may seem simple, and it is, but it’s often overlooked. If you don’t want to be too personal, ask for a restaurant recommendation or for directions to a nearby area. Questions show you value their thought, an important foundation for uncomfortable discussions.

10. Build a Rapport

According to a psychological phenomenon, the Benjamin Franklin effect, if you do perform a favor for someone, as a result, you will tend to like that person. The reason is as follows: people tend to justify kind actions by assuming a favor was performed because the person who received the favor is liked and deserving of the favor.

While kind gestures towards your neighbors will likely be well appreciated, follow this counter-intuitive logic by also creating opportunities for your neighbors to do something kind for you. A couple ideas? Ask a neighbor to check your mail while you’re on vacation, or to park in your driveway while you’re away to keep your home safe. By establishing a positive rapport between you and your neighbors, you’ll set a foundation for open dialog if issues do arise.

Be a Good Neighbor

The bottom line? Conflict may arise between you and your neighbor, and if it does, use these tips to resolve issues in a healthy, proactive way. But most importantly, exercise kindness and be a good neighbor — this will go a long way in solving any future troubles.

3 Things to Look For in Replacement Windows

If window replacement is in your future, it’s time to read up on the latest in available features and materials.


Of all the components that go into residential construction, windows stand out as one of the few that heavily influence both the look of the home and its performance. But while windows are visible indoors and out, playing roles in interior design as well as outward curb appeal, people rarely install new windows for aesthetic reasons alone. Typically, says Jim Eldredge, a product manager with Sears Home Services, window-shopping homeowners are driven by practical concerns that include energy efficiency, maintenance, and security. If for any reason you’re now in the planning stages of a window replacement project, “your timing couldn’t be better,” Eldredge adds, noting that in recent years, window design and manufacturing have advanced by leaps and bounds. Today, the best windows boast an unprecedented degree of sophistication and offer a host of compelling new features. Some are minor—nice to have but nonessential. According to Eldredge, however, there are at least three features that are “worth it to insist on.” Read on to learn which are the most pivotal, and why.




“A good window is a poor wall”—that old saying goes back to the days when wood-framed, single-paned windows couldn’t compete with the thermal resistance of an insulated exterior wall. “That’s changing,” says Eldredge. There’s still no such thing as a perfect window, but many now boast best-ever efficiency. If you’re pursuing window replacement in an effort to conserve energy and control utility costs, Eldredge recommends “focusing only on windows with Energy Star certification,” like the Weatherbeater line installed by Sears Home Services. Weatherbeater windows are double-paned for added insulation, and argon, a denser-than-air gas injected in between the panes insulates even further. Another secret to the efficiency of modern windows: the use of a transparent, micro-thin layer of metal oxide, known as low-e coating. In the summer, low-e works to limit solar heat gain, while in winter, it prevents heat from escaping. Year-round, low-e protects rugs, upholstered furniture, and artwork from fading under the effects of ultraviolet sunlight. “It’s like sunscreen for your house,” Eldredge concludes.




If they’re going to look great and perform well over the long term, windows require care. How much? That “depends a lot on the material composition of the frame,” Eldredge says. Wood, though beautiful, demands the most attention. Aluminum stands up comparatively well to the rigors of year-round exposure, but it falls short in other ways. For example, as it’s an extraordinarily effective conductor of heat, aluminum usually makes for a poor insulator. Vinyl manages to combine the best of both worlds—the look of wood and the durability of aluminum. It’s perhaps no surprise that, as Eldredge points out, “vinyl windows are increasingly the go-to choice.” A popular option from Sears Home Services, Weatherbeater vinyl windows require little more than occasional cleaning. Of course, nobody likes cleaning windows, but some—Weatherbeater included—facilitate the dreaded chore with tilt-in sashes that provide easy access to the exterior glass. Once you eliminate what was always the trickiest part of doing it the old-fashioned way, “window-cleaning gets a whole lot easier,” Eldredge says.




You may live in an area where break-ins are rare, but it’s comforting to know your home can defend against would-be intruders, if necessary. “The trouble is that not every homeowner feels that way,” Eldredge says. Perhaps as a consequence, many customers who decide on window replacement do so for a simple reason—”they want to feel safer,” Eldredge says. In assessing the safety and security features of any given replacement window, “start with the hardware, including the locking mechanism,” Eldredge says, “but don’t ignore the glass.” Some types of glass are tougher than others. Upon impact, a traditional window shatters all too easily, leaving a gaping hole. But thanks to an interlayer of polyvinyl butyral (PVB), security glass boasts enhanced strength. You may need to ask for it; security glass typically doesn’t come standard. For example, among the window offerings from Sears Home Services, only the Weatherbeater Max line includes security glass. But while it may not be the right choice for everyone, there’s good reason to consider it if you’re concerned about crime or windblown debris in a storm.


Many pursue window replacement only once, if at all, in their tenure as homeowner. Unfamiliar territory for most, window replacement tends to provoke no small amount of anxiety. It’s a significant undertaking, both in terms of scope and consequences, and there are significant costs involved—not least because for all but the most ambitious do-it-yourselfers, the project entails hiring a pro. You can start by soliciting estimates from reputable contractors in your area—it’s never too early. Or, to explore your options further, you can go online now to schedule a free in-home consultation with Sears Home Services. Operating nationally, with a decades-long track record of success, Sears matches you with an expert coordinator, ready to walk you through the entire process, from the earliest stage of selecting a window to the final installation. Best of all, unlike local outfits, Sears provides a Satisfaction Guarantee. When you’re dealing with a component of your home as critical as its windows, it means a lot to work with a trusted brand. As Eldredge puts it, “There’s nothing like peace of mind.”



17 Guest Security & Safety Tips for Your Vacation Home Rental Property



If you are planning on renting out your vacation home property in Orlando or any other major city, the safety and security of your guests should be planned for.

Not only will you be able to attract more guests if your property can boast various security measures, but your guests will feel and be safer during their stay.

Even if your vacation home is in a very safe neighborhood, there are some common sense security precautions that you should take.

17 Guest Security & Safety Tips for Your Vacation Home Rental Property

Security Tips                                                    

1. Your front and rear doors should be solid wood or steel, with high-quality doorknobs and locks — as well as a deadbolt on the interior side. If the door is flanked by decorative glass panels, make sure they are shatter proof. Choose front and rear doors with peepholes and sturdy door chains.

2. All windows should have locks and be easy to open and close in case the guest needs to exit the house in an emergency, such as a fire. Impact-resistant windows in heavy-duty frames are nice to have during the hurricane season! Window protection film can also help prevent glass from shattering.

3. Install LED lighting along sidewalks, your garage, and the front and rear doors. Ideally, these lights should turn on automatically at dusk and turn off at dawn.

4. Have interior lights on timers so that they come on as dusk falls (at varying times) over the course of seven days. Make sure guests know that the lights are on timers so they won’t be surprised to come home to a fully lit house.

5. Install visible security cameras by front and back entrances and the garage. These will deter burglars and may also record any accidents, such as someone tripping and falling, as they come up the stairs to the front door. (Note that interior cameras are illegal.)

These visible security cameras must be working cameras! Dummy cameras do not do you or your guests any good. If the home is burglarized while it’s being rented, you may well be sued if the cameras were fake and thus did not capture images of the thieves.



6. If you have a garage, install an automatic garage door opener and make this available to your guests. Inside the garage, hang a tennis ball or some other item a few feet from the back wall to aid people in pulling in and out safely!

7. Install a security alarm. Investigate the best system for your property, as you’ll want your guests to be able to use it easily and not set off an alarm accidentally. Make sure they know any necessary passwords (and change these for each guest).

8. Consider installing a safe — and describe this in your home description. Obviously you want to emphasize that the home is in a good neighborhood, but offering a safe for the convenience of guests might attract those who like to bring jewelry with them on their travels.

Leave information about all the security features in your guest information notebook for your visitors.

Guest Safety Tips

9. Install smoke detectors in every bedroom and on every floor and, of course, in the kitchen of your vacation rental home.

If your home was built before 1991, the building code does not require that you have a smoke detector in every bedroom — but it’s just a good idea to have them!

Change the batteries on a regular basis.

Make sure instructions for how to turn off an inadvertent smoke alarm are in your guest information notebook. Every smoke detector is a little bit different, and it can be very frustrating for people trying to turn one off if they don’t know how it works.

10. Supply a fully-charged fire extinguisher for the garage and the kitchen, and again, make sure instructions for how to use it are in the guest information notebook.

11. It is also law in most states that a carbon monoxide detector be on every floor. Carbon monoxide is lighter than air, so it will rise. Place detectors high up near the ceiling, not near the floor.




12. If you have a swimming pool, make sure it has an automatic cover and all necessary safety equipment such as a life preserver and floats for little children.

Make sure you post CPR instructions in a visible place by the pool, as well as emergency phone numbers. Put up a sign saying “No lifeguard on duty, swim at your own risk” just to protect yourself.

13. A list of instructions — such as “Supervise children at all times” and “No running on pool deck” the same kinds of instructions you see at municipal pools — is also a good idea.

Also remember to have the pool cleaned on a regular basis.

14. Install home automation. Guests can forget to turn off the water in the kitchen sink. By installing motion-activated faucets, you can prevent guests from forgetting this important detail and potentially flooding your kitchen.

Motion-activated faucets can also save water.

If lights are motion activated as soon as someone enters any room, from the garage to the bathroom to the bedroom to the living room and kitchen, this will prevent frustration from people trying to find the light-switch in the middle of the night.

15. Place non-slip stickers in all bathtubs and showers. Have plenty of handles as well so people can grab onto one if they do start to fall.

16. Install a new HVAC system. If your HVAC system is over 10 years old, consider installing a new system. The latest systems are energy efficient and can not only keep a home more comfortable, but also save on energy costs.

17. Place instructions for water heaters/HVAC right next to them.

You don’t want your guests to have to try to raise or lower the temperature on your water heater. Place signs with large print right next to it forbidding this practice and giving the phone number of a handyman/caretaker who will make any adjustments if they so desire.

By following these procedures, your guests will enjoy greater safety and security and you will have greater peace of mind.

Home Design Trends to Watch: The Herringbone Pattern

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine
Photo courtesy of Laura AnnDiaz of Laura Diaz’s Photography and Mandie Maguire, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

Herringbone is emerging as the pattern of choice in 2016. Herringbone is the arrangement of rectangles that is so named for its resemblance to the bones of fish.

This pattern is popping up on everything from hardwood floors, kitchen backsplashes and shower walls. It may be subtle or bold.

Mandie Maguire with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services says she’s noticed the herringbone pattern subtly appear on more kitchen marble backsplashes above a kitchen range. Also, in flooring, the herringbone pattern is being used with tile floors to give it a more rustic — even hardwood floor resemblance.


Photo by Braswell Design+Build – Look for traditional bathroom pictures


Photo by Neumann Lewis Buchanan Architects – Discover traditional entryway design inspiration


Photo by Croma Design Inc – Look for contemporary kitchen pictures