Month: April 2017

The Quick Home Inspection Checklist: What to Look for When Buying a Home


Whether you’re a first-time home buyer, or starting to look around for a new one, it always helps to know what to look for when buying a house. There are numerous red flags that can pop up while checking out a home, sometimes it’s the state of the foundation, other times it’s the quality of the appliances. To help you spot them, we’ve put together a few tips and a quick checklist to use when buying a home.

Before You Go House Hunting


Find a Real Estate Agent With High Ratings
Use real estate forums and directories, such as Zillow, to find agents with good reputations in your area. You may also consider hiring an Exclusive Buyer’s Agent, a real estate agent who specializes in working with home buyers, rather than sellers.



Look at the Local School Districts
If you plan to start a family, it’s good to know the quality of the local schools beforehand. There are numerous sites that track school performance, providing a relatively accurate picture of the quality of local schools:

Your Quick Home Inspection Checklist

During the initial home tour, you should mark down specific areas of the house that you want your inspector to examine more closely. Use the checklist below to guide you as you take a look through the house.



o Are there shingles missing?
o Is there flashing and trim installed?
o Are there any signs of leaks?
o When will the roof need to be replaced?


o Are there visible cracks on the outside walls?
o Are there any trees near the foundation?


o Does the drainage slope away from the house?
o Are there any soggy areas you can identify?
o Are the walkways and driveway in good condition?


Appliances: (If included)

o Do the appliances appear to be well-maintained?
o What are the ages of the:

Refrigerator? ___
Dishwasher? ___
Oven? ___

o Are there any leaks under the sinks (bathrooms and kitchen)?

Structural Elements:

o Has there previously been a fire in the home?
o Do the walls show vertical or horizontal cracks?
o Are there any stains on the floors, walls or ceilings?

Ventilation and Sub-Systems:

o Does the house smell? Can you identify the source?
o Do the heating and AC systems appear to be working?
o Does the water heater produce enough hot water?
o Is there a working exhaust fan in the kitchen?



o Do all the switches work?
o Is each outlet properly grounded?
o Do the ceiling fans work?
o Has the electrical panel been recalled?


o Are there any unusual noises?
o Do the faucets and other fixtures have enough pressure?


o Check all of the following elements for signs of damage or wear:

 Slab
 Walls
 Ceiling
 Vents
 Garage Door
 Lights
 Openers
 Windows
 Roof


After the Tour

Hire a Home Inspector
After you’ve toured the house, you’ll need to hire an inspector to give the house a more thorough inspection. Most real estate agents will recommend one to you, but you could also go out there and find one yourself.



Start by looking up inspectors near you using the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) directory, or your preferred local services platform, such as Angie’s list. You will want to find someone with three to five years of full-time experience, and who can also provide proof of licensing (requirements may vary by state) and insurance (both general liability and errors and omission coverage). These are the inspectors who will know what to look for when you’re buying a house.



Read Through the Inspection Report
The inspection should take no more than three or four hours, after which you will have a full report to pour over (an example of which can be found here). Any potential problems will be noted on the report – usually with pictures included. Bear in mind that any home is going to have issues. The key is to identify the costliest problems before signing, and using that information to either renegotiate the selling price or walk away.

The most common problems identified on a home inspection checklist include:

  • Faulty Wiring: Wires without wire nuts, open junction boxes.
  • Faulty Plumbing: Low water pressure, water stains on ceilings.
  • Poor Drainage: Soggy areas in the yard, leaks in basement.
  • Bad Gutters: Clogged gutters, basement dampness.
  • Foundation Flaws: Small cracks, sticking doors and windows.
  • Poor Maintenance: Chipped paint, worn shingles, cracked driveway.

All of these problems can be easily fixed with the right contractor, and shouldn’t be deal breakers. However, if any of the following problems are flagged in the report, you might want to have second or third thoughts:

  • The Roof Needs Replacing: The average cost of a roof replacement is $7,000.
  • The House Is in a Flood Zone: Use FEMA’s flood maps to determine if the home is at risk.
  • Major Foundation Issues: Hire a structural engineer to determine if those cracks are actually serious.
  • Aluminum Wiring: This type of wiring almost always needs to be replaced, a process that can cost thousands of dollars.

These are some of the most expensive repairs and conditions you will come across while house hunting. If any of these pop up during the course of your home inspection, be sure to consult with your real estate agent to see if the sellers can be convinced to pay for the repairs. For certain issues outside the home, such as flood zones, be prepared to pay for additional insurance coverage to mitigate your risk.

Don’t let those potential pitfalls deter you from making an offer on the home of your dreams. As long as you keep a checklist when buying a home, and heed the findings of your inspector, you’ll be able to make a fully informed decision.

Interior Design — Pretty Kitchen Makeover On A Budget

Designer Trish Johnston transforms a small family kitchen into a pretty space for a family with two little girls. See how she used glamorous finishes to add personality to every square foot.
Trish describes this bright and airy kitchen as a jewel box. To achieve this look, she painted the existing cabinetry in Benjamin Moore’s Cloud White (CC-40), replaced the countertops with a showstopping Calacatta marble and accessorized with brass and crystal hardware throughout. While the kitchen is small, Trish managed to fit an eat-in zone by extending the peninsula. A powdery shade of light blue on the cabinetry gives the space a dash of color, while an elegant patterned fabric on the blinds and upholstered stools offers an extra touch of opulence.

See the sources for this video here:…

Wonderful Hallway Runner Ideas for Your Home

The hallway is the first part of your home’s interior. If it is designed inviting and cozy, it will leave a good impression on you and your visitors. To make a hallway cozy one very easy way is to roll out a stylish runner rug. Some really beautiful rugs are available at catwalk rugs too. Let’s say, if you want to add pattern to your hallway, roll out a striped runner. If you want to add texture, go for a woven rug. These and more designs are below for your inspiration:

1. Spice Up The Hallway  with a Traditional Runner

Image via: houzz , style blueprint

Old is gold and any runner with a traditional pattern will definitely increase the beauty of your hallway by many folds.

2. Create A Customized Runner with Carpet Tiles

Image via: flor , boston magazine

If you can’t seem to find the right size of the runner for your hallway then you can make one by yourself using carpet tiles. In this manner you can create the perfect combination of design and size without compromising on style.

3. A Floral Masterpiece

Image via: ideas designing

Flowers bring freshness and a feminine feel to any place they are added. And the same goes for a hallway.

4. Coordinating Stair and Hallway Runners

Image via: cybball

If your hallway has stairs too, then you can match the stair and hallway runners to create a harmony in style.

5. A Timeless Moroccan Stencil Runner

Image via: the everygirl

Some patterns are designer approved and one such pattern is a Moroccan stencil. No matter how many trends will come and go, Moroccan stencil can never go wrong.

6. A Woven Runner Rug with a Wonderful Texture

If you want to introduce texture to your hallway, then a woven runner is the decor element you should go for.

7. Dandy Striped Runners in Different Colors

If you are a fan of stripes, then depending upon your design taste go for a monochrome or a colorful striped runner.

8. A Classy Chevron Runner

Image via: memorable decor

Just like Moroccan stencil discussed above, chevron pattern is also timeless. It is a stylish pattern and goes well with almost any kind of interior.

9. An Animal Print Runner

Image via: houzz

Do you like animal prints? If yes, then decorate your hallway with an animal print runner. If you don’t want the print to be too loud, then you can go for a runner with an animal print in muted tones like this one.

10. Cheerful Color Pops

Image via: houzz , lonny

Want something lively and cheerful in your home? Then adorn your hallway with a jazzy runner.

Beautiful Bedroom Design Ideas For The Whole Family

“When you invest in your bedroom you invest in yourself”


Designer Gillian Gillies shares three bedrooms she designed for a family with two kids. Get her tips on how to create a space personalized to each family member, plus smart bedroom storage solutions that go beyond the closet.

In the parent’s master bedroom, Gillian wanted to create a spa-like retreat, so she used a palette of light green and blue for a soft and serene atmosphere. A built-in wall separates the dressing room, while a custom king-sized storage bed keeps clutter at bay. For the kids rooms, Gillian took a more layered approach with pattern, color and texture. The daughter loves art and is very creative, so Gillian kept the color scheme neutral so she can add in her own prints and accessories. The son’s room didn’t have a closet before the renovation, so adding storage, like a bed with drawers and a built-in desk, was the main focus of the renovation.

See the sources for the items in this video here:…


Remodeling 101: Smart In-Wall Dimmer Switches

by Barbara Peck

There are many instances in which you may want to turn down the lights: for a dinner party, a relaxing bath, movie night, and on other occasions we don’t need to get into here. For when you don’t want to get out of bed—or when you’re on your way to the airport, only to realize you forgot to leave a lamp on—there are now smart dimmer switches that use wireless technology to adjust light levels. Here’s what you need to know.

Belkin Wemo Wireless Light Control Switch Smart In-Wall Dimmer Switch In-Situ
Above: The Belkin Wemo Wireless Light Control Switch in situ.

What are the smart ways to dim the lights?

In the past we covered the new smart light bulbs that you can control with your smartphone or tablet (see Remodeling 101: Smart Light Bulbs). If you have smart bulbs in your lamps and light fixtures, you can dim them using their app. But maybe you’re not ready to invest in smart bulbs—those things can be pricey. Or perhaps you have a beautiful ceiling fixture that only takes candelabra bulbs. Your best option is to replace your old wall switch with a smart dimmer switch.

What’s a smart dimmer switch?

Most smart dimmer switches are installed inside the wall, behind your existing switchplate. Once installed, they let you dim (or brighten) a number of lights using a mobile device—or even with voice commands, using a smart-home virtual assistant like Amazon Alexa. You generally need to have installed a smart home hub (such as Wink, Apple’s HomeKit, or Samsung’s SmartThings) to operate these dimmer switches remotely. If you already have a smart-home system, that will likely dictate the type of switch you choose.

Belkin Wemo Wireless Light Control Switch from Home Depot Smart In-Wall Dimmer Switch
Above: The Belkin WeMo Wireless Light Control Switch;$49.99.

Why would I want a smart dimmer switch?

For starters, a smart dimmer switch lets you can dim your lights without getting up off the couch. But it does much more than that. It lets you control a number of lights simultaneously using a mobile device. You can even arrange for a group of lights to dim automatically at a certain time every evening, or to drop to a set level at the touch of a button. (Some switches have a customizable button, so that one tap or two taps will adjust the lighting to set preferences.) Plus, any smart dimmer switch will also let you turn your lights on and off, wherever you happen to be. That’s handy if, say, you’re out of town and want to create the illusion that there’s someone home. And tech-challenged household members can still operate these switches manually, the old-fashioned way.

What do I need to install a smart dimmer switch?

Home Wi-Fi, of course, is essential. In most cases, you’ll also need a smart-home system or hub to allow your mobile device to communicate with the switch. And if you’re doing the installation yourself, you’ll need pliers and a screwdriver.

What kinds of smart dimmer switches are recommended?

Most smart dimmers look like a traditional paddle-style wall switch; you may even be able to use the same wall plate (in fact, many come without the wall plate).

New products are coming on the market all the time, so before you make a decision, bone up on the subject online. The Wirecutter currently suggests smart dimmers that use wireless Z-Wave technology, which integrates with a large range of smart-home hubs. Note that Z-Wave dimmers do need a smart-home hub for you to communicate with them. Below are a few models currently on the market.

Homeseer HS Z-Wave Scene Capable Wall Dimmer Smart In-Wall Dimmer Switch
Above: Wirecutter’s top choice, the HomeSeer HS-WD100+ ($55 at Amazon), works best with HomeSeer’s HomeTroller system, but it’s also compatible with other Z-wave controllers.
Insteon Remote Control Dimmer Switch White Smarthome Smart In-Wall Dimmer Switch
Above: The Insteon Remote Control Dimmer Switch ($49.99; also available via Amazon) requires the Insteon Hub; it integrates with Apple HomeKit technology and also with Amazon Alexa. The accompanying Screwless Wall Plate ($2.99) comes in six neutral shades.
Luttron Caseta Wireless In-Wall Smart Dimmer Kit
Above: To use the Lutron Caséta Wireless In-Wall Smart Dimmer Kit (from $59.25 via Amazon), you’ll need to add either the Caséta Wireless Smart Bridge, which lets you integrate the switch with Apple’s HomeKit (so you can ask Siri to dim the lights), or the Wink hub; either way you can connect your switch to Alexa. For more information, visit Caséta Wireless.
Leviton Decora Smart Wifi Dimmer from Amazon Smart In-Wall Dimmer Switch
Above: No hub is required for the Leviton Decora Smart Wi-Fi Dimmer ($49.99 via Amazon); simply install the switch in the wall and use the My Leviton app (for iOS and Android) to connect it to your home’s Wi-Fi. This switch also operates via voice control with Alexa; see Leviton for more.

Can I install my own smart wall dimmer?

You might be able install a smart dimmer yourself if you have some experience swapping out light switches. You’ll need to turn off the power to that circuit at your fuse box, open up the existing switch, and do some rewiring to attach the wires to the new switch. If anything about that makes you nervous, bring in a licensed electrician to do the job.

Switchmate Light Switch Toggle White Home Depot Smart In-Wall Dimmer Switch
Above: Looking for an option without rewiring? The Switchmate Light Switch Toggle ($29.97) attaches magnetically to existing switches (avoiding the need for an electrician) and can be controlled via an app, but it can only turn lights fully on or fully off. For more automatic on/off switches, see our earlier post Lights Out: Sensor Light Switches.

5 Expert Tips to Attract Cream-of-the-Crop Tenants

by Kevin Perk

Tenants. That one word can send chills down a landlord’s spine. To a landlord, tenants are both their bread and butter and their biggest problem. We have all heard the horror stories of bad tenants who trash properties, steal our money, and otherwise want to make us sell everything we own. Top that off with the ever increasing number of tenant-friendly laws being enacted by jurisdictions around the country, and you might wonder why anyone would want to be a landlord.

One has to remember, however, that not all tenants are bad. There are some great ones out there, and the key is attracting these good tenants to you and your properties. Attracting these tenants is not always as simple as placing a “For Rent” sign in the front yard. It takes a bit of thought and effort. But if you can attract the best tenants you will significantly reduce the amount of problems and the levels of stress you face.

So how do you attract great tenants? Here are some ideas.


5 Expert Tips to Attract Cream-of-the-Crop Tenants

1. Know your rental market.

All markets in real estate are extremely local. Various neighborhoods and communities will attract differing segments of the tenant base and will offer differing amenities. In some neighborhoods the proximity of a good school may be a major attraction. In others it may be proximity to work or to entertainment facilities. You as the landlord need to understand what attracts good tenants to your location and market towards that. If the school is great, say so. If the proximity to entertainment is great, say so.

Your market will also determine the type of amenities offered, as not all locations will offer the same ones. For example, some locations can attract good tenants without supplying appliances, while others cannot. You may not like supplying appliances, but if it is done in your local market and you do not, the best tenants are going to go elsewhere.

2. Know how your tenants search for rentals.

Understanding how the best tenants, along with the bad ones, will find you is another key. You need to focus your advertising towards the most productive methods to find the best tenants. Gone are the days of just being able to put a sign in the yard and hoping for the best. Today a landlord has many ways to advertise their properties.

Yes, you can still use signs in the yard, but these will only attract those who happen to be driving by your property or specifically looking in your neighborhood. While signs may be good if you are trying to attract tenants because you are next to a good school, they will not work if your goal is to attract professionals moving in from out of town. Know and understand who you are trying to communicate with and how they prefer to communicate.

3. Act professional.

Always remember that you are running a business, and professionalism goes a long way. Remember that prospective tenants are looking for a place to call home, and they are going to have their guard up when they see your ads or contact you. Thus, you need to be professional at all of the points of tenant contact, including everything from having professional looking signs and a website, to a professional looking personal appearance and manner. Nothing is going to spook the good tenants more than a bad vibe they get from an unprofessional looking or unorganized and confused sounding landlord. Think about it from their point of view. They are sizing you up just as much as you are them.

4. Have standards/rental criteria.

Nearly every prospective tenant is going to have concerns about who is living next door. It is only natural to be worried who will be on the other side of that wall. Unfortunately for them, you really should not tell them much about who lives there. It can get you into trouble, and it is not very professional to share info about tenants. You can, however, explain your rental criteria and state that everyone you rent to has to meet those criteria. So, for example, you can state that all tenants have to pass a criminal background check and make enough money to afford the property. Tell them the same standards that you are going to apply to them applied to everyone. That will often calm most nerves.



5. Keep your property tidy and maintained.

I hate to have to say this, but it needs to be said. If you let your properties become run down, you will end up in a downward spiral of lower and lower quality tenants who will cause you more and more problems. This does not mean that you have to provide granite countertops or plant rose gardens, but your properties should look well kept. That means cut grass, a trash-free yard, a lack of peeling paint, and a general tidy and cared about appearance. Yes, this all costs money, but it is going to be less money than the amount you have to spend due to a bad tenant.

Tenants can make or break a landlord. Attract the good ones by following the tips outlined above. Let the bad ones move on to your less informed competition.

20 Beautiful Kitchens With Floating Shelves

by Camille Moore


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If there’s one room in your house that needs plenty of storage space, it’s the kitchen. Beautiful kitchens are a source of pride, and one way to keep your kitchen looking good is to keep it clutter free. But we all know that isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Between dishes, ingredients, and utensils, there are plenty of kitchen items that need a place to go. For people whose homes don’t have pantries, finding a convenient place to store things can get a little difficult. No one wants to clutter their counters with pots, pans, or dishes, but people also want to make sure that all of these items are easily accessible. This is where shelving comes comes in.

Shelves allow you to store your items in a way that reduces clutter but also makes them easy to get to. That all sounds well and good, but you’re probably thinking about how boring and ugly shelves can be. However, floating shelves offer storage and style. These shelves, which appear to be suspended in air, are a great solution for kitchens. If you want to see how amazing these shelves can look, especially in already beautiful kitchens, these examples will give you a taste. Here are 20 beautiful kitchens with floating shelves.


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What Is Transitional Style? The Type of Decor Everyone Can Agree On

By Margaret Heidenry


With so many decor styles out there, it can be hard to stick with just one. Modern, rustic, shabby chic, traditional—deciding on the vibe you want for your home can be downright confusing. But here’s the great thing about interior design: Many of these styles overlap, and can actually work really well together. The design world uses the term “transitional style” to describe the type of design that melds two different aesthetics—modern and traditional—into the same room. So how can you bring transitional style into your home? Our experts break it down for you.

Defining transitional style
The key to achieving this style is balance. Transitional style welcomes disparate styles—the traditional and the modern, the feminine and the masculine—in the same space. It’s a classic, clean look that’s reinvigorated by mixing in contemporary furniture, rugs, and accessories, according to Ellie Thompson, CEO of Venyou, an online platform that lists private homes and estates for events. An angular, modern dining table surrounded by traditional upholstered chairs is a typical example of transitional design. A rule of thumb: You want the decor to be inviting and accessible, not veering too far into one trend or another.



Photo by Ashley Campbell Interior Design: A modern marble table is paired with more relaxed, upholstered dining chairs.

As with any design style, there are unofficial rules to get the look. You can best achieve the mix-and-match transitional style in your home by choosing pieces that follow these guidelines.

Element No. 1: Beige is your friend

Neutral tones are the hallmark of transitional style, according to Thompson. Go for an unsaturated palette of white, cream, beige, tan, gray, or light brown. A simple neutral backdrop for the walls, flooring, cabinets, and large furniture will make the room feel timeless.

Element No. 2: Mix textures

Transitional style embraces different materials that have the same color but that give texture to the space. “Whether it be stone, wood, or leather, transitional style isn’t married to one type of material,” says Thompson. “Using a couple different textures will help you achieve an elegant but modern look.” She suggests incorporating such textures as chrome, gold, wood, glass, fabric, and faux fur into every room of your home.

Element No. 3: Use antiques strategically

Balance out an otherwise contemporary room with an antique statement piece. This will give the room depth and show off your curating skills. “Nothing makes a room feel more modern,” says interior designer Mark Cutler of Los Angeles. “The more sleek the space, the more rustic and worn the antique should be,” he says.

Element No. 4: Use bold accents sparingly

“Don’t overdo it!” says Thompson. Keep it simple by picking a couple loud pieces that accent the room but don’t clutter it. Patterns are used sparingly and tend toward geometrics. “And window treatments will be simple, with sleek lines instead of fussy or complex designs,” says Griffin.

Photo by Martha O’Hara Interiors: Yellow accessories in a transitional living room add interest but don’t overpower.

Element No. 5: A contemporary rug is a must

Transitional furnishings will almost always be partnered with a contemporary rug—think solid, geometric or animal prints—rather than a traditional rug that’s floral, paisley, or oriental, says Griffin. “This is a simple way to touch on transitional style that doesn’t require a complete redesign of your home.”

Element No. 6: Choose modern art that makes a statement

“Keep it big and bold for a greater impact, instead of hanging lots of smaller pieces,” says Griffin. Art should have a contemporary look, in terms of style and colors—abstract works, graphic prints, and photography are best.

Element No. 7: Rely on classic lines

Stick to furniture, tables, and beds that have a sophisticated shape with simple, sophisticated lines, as opposed to pieces that are rounded and ornate. Transitional furniture will be comfortable but boast straighter lines.

“Square off everything,” says Tracy Kay Griffin, lead designer at Express Homebuyers. That means that in choosing a traditional element, you avoid curves and ornate detail, and make sure it has straighter lines, to minimize detail. “For example, doorknobs could be straight levers as opposed to round knobs, and sinks may have a rectangular shape.”

The transitional aesthetic requires the seamless marrying of several traditional pieces with true contemporary pieces. Essentially, this means that your home should be a sophisticated yet livable home, full of beloved items and sensible furniture that can last a lifetime.