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4 Things First-Time Homebuyers Need to Know

My wife and I are hoping to be first-time home-buyers this year. We’ll likely blow our savings on the down payment and closing costs. What’s the best way to handle the costs for home renovations? Private loan? Just wait a year or two for our savings to replenish some? –Brian & Emily, Jersey City

Congratulations on your adventure into becoming homeowners.

Buying a home is likely the biggest purchase you’ll ever make, and it’s not always an easy one.

Low inventory has pushed home prices up in cities throughout the country, giving sellers an advantage. Homes sell fast, bidding wars break out and offers above the asking price are common.

All of this means that buyers need to be on their game and have their finances in order before entering the market.

Here’s what experts said first-time buyers need to know:

 

1. What you can actually afford

Before buyers start their house hunt, it’s important they know how much they can afford to spend.

“Start with a plan,” said Chantel Bonneau, a financial adviser at Northwestern Mutual. “Don’t let your imagination take over and don’t let what you see from friends’ houses drive your budget.”

Buyers should list out all of their monthly expenses. Don’t forget to include items like groceries, transportation, and discretionary spending, like gym memberships and nights out.

Related: Should real estate be part of my retirement plan?

A general rule of thumb is that housing costs shouldn’t take up more than 30% of your before-tax income.

But experts said that the percentage can vary, especially if you have other debts, like student loans or car payments.

Spending too much on monthly housing payments can leave homeowners house poor, and unable to afford other expenses — like saving for retirement.

“A home is not a good excuse to be reckless with the rest of your financial situation,” said Bonneau.

In competitive markets, it’s common for buyers to get pre-approved for financing to get a leg up. But experts said that just because a bank approves you for a certain amount, it doesn’t mean that’s what you should spend. Stick to a price limit you’re comfortable with.

 

2. You need a buffer

While it may be tempting to throw everything you’ve got at your offer to stay competitive, experts recommended having at least some money left over after you close on a home.

“If buying a house takes your checking account down to $1,000, it’s probably too expensive,” said Bonneau.

Experts advised having at least three to six months in savings the day you become homeowners. One reason is that you’ll need emergency savings now more than ever.

 

“You don’t want a flat tire or a deductible on a medical plan to throw you into financial turmoil,” said Bonneau. “When you are a homeowner, you have a lot more things that can go wrong.”

If a home purchase leaves you with no liquidity, it might be worth considering waiting to increase your savings or lowering your price point, advised Neil Krishnaswamy, a certified financial planner with Exencial Wealth Advisors.

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Brian and Emily are looking to buy their first home.

3. The true cost of owning a home

The down payment tends to be the biggest financial hurdle to owning a home, but there are many other costs that pop up along the way: appraisal, origination, credit report and notary fees can all add up.

And the costs don’t stop just when the keys are handed over. There’s the move, new furniture and costs like lawn care and utility payments that former renters might not be used to paying.

“I don’t know if anyone truly understands the total cost of owning a home,” said Krishnaswamy. “Things just continually come up that you want to do, either buy something to fill a room or fix or improve something. Most people underestimate the cost.”

4. Renovations are not as seen on TV

Buying a fixer-up might allow you to snag a bigger home or afford one in a more desirable area, but experts warned there are huge risks.

“Know that it is always more expensive than what you are imagining … or what you see on TV,” said Bonneau.

If a home needs renovations, factor that into the total cost of buying, recommended Krishnaswamy.

A private loan is an option to finance the project, but can be difficult to secure, especially after just taking out a mortgage.

If your home appraises for more than you purchased it for, you could have the option of tapping your equity to help pay for renovations.

There are some mortgage options that include renovation expenses. For instance, 203k FHA loan allows homebuyers to finance the sale and rehabilitation on a single mortgage.

Another option is asking a friend or family member for a loan.

“If you are trying to secure the best low-rate loan, look at those closest to you, but be mindful of your relationship status if you can’t pay back the loan,” said Krishnaswamy.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Water Damage and Roof Leaks?

By Margaret Heidenry

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Whether you’re dealing with a slow leak in the basement or a steady drip from a hole in the roof, water can wreak havoc on your home—and your bank account. Once the water recedes, one of the first questions you’ll have is whether your homeowners insurance covers water damage and roof leaks. Well, we have you covered with the answers below.

Is water damage covered?

In a word, yes! A standard homeowners insurance policy will cover water damage and roof leaks unless they’re the result of gross negligence on your part. Even if the roof leak is caused by a windstorm or a tree crashing through the shingles, you’re covered.

Roof leaks are typically covered if a windstorm damages a home and creates an “opening” in the roof, says Stacey A. Giulianti, a lawyer in Boca Raton, FL. Homeowners insurance doesn’t cover any “preventable” damage to a property, so the key here is determining if the leak is caused by a sudden and unexpected event. For example, rain that drips in through a pre-existing hole is generally not a covered loss, because the insurance company would likely say you should have fixed the hole.

If a broken or frozen pipe turns your basement into a swimming pool, you can file a claim with your homeowners insurance and the policy will cover damages. Of course, each policy’s terms may include specific coverages and exclusions, so always read the fine print.

When is water damage not covered?

Water damage due to sewage and drain backups generally requires additional insurance coverage beyond a standard policy, says Joe Vahey, vice president and product manager at Erie Insurance.

Say your rain gutters are clogged because you haven’t cleaned them. With nowhere to go, water flows down the sides of your home and pools around the foundation, causing interior water damage.

“This type of claim, known as seepage, is a maintenance issue and often isn’t covered under your home insurance policy,” says Vahey. That’s because the damage is due to neglect that could have been prevented through proper home maintenance. Damage caused by manufacturing defects in your roofing material or installation errors are also not covered.

Another type of water damage homeowners insurance policies specifically exclude is that from flooding caused by a natural disaster (e.g., a hurricane). But you can purchase a separate flood policy.

Flood insurance premiums are pricey, however, and depend on the risk of flooding in the area where your house is located as well as the value of the home and its contents, says Thomas J. Simeone of Simeone & Miller in Washington, DC.

How to protect yourself from hidden costs

According to a study by Erie Insurance, nearly 27% of homeowners mistakenly believe their insurance will pay for damage that occurs to their roof through normal wear and tear. So proper home maintenance (clean your gutters!) and routine inspection (check and maintain your roof!) can go a long way to ensure any pooling water and roof leaks are caught early and fixed. If left unchecked, bigger—and potentially damaging—problems are likely to occur.

9 innovative gadgets that will make cleaning your home so much easier

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Is anyone actually this happy when they vacuum? didesign021/Shutterstock

Like working out, cleaning often feels more rewarding after than during the act itself. In fact, studies have even shown a link between clutter and elevated stress levels.

So if you can’t motivate yourself to start, or if you’re overwhelmed from cleaning advice like this three-wave system or this decluttering how-to with a cult following, you’re not alone.

Thankfully, hands-free options exist, and they’ll let you reap all the benefits of cleaning without lifting a finger. From a $10 air purifier to high-tech robotic vacuums, there’s something for everyone on this list of home cleaning gadgets.


 

This bright ball of fur rolls around collecting dust and dirt, thanks to a feat of Japanese engineering.

this-bright-ball-of-fur-rolls-around-collecting-dust-and-dirt-thanks-to-a-feat-of-japanese-engineeringThese double as a fun pet toy. GadgetFlow

The Mocoro Robot Cleaning Ball will roll freely around your apartment or home, trapping dust and dirt in its microfiber fur as it goes. Powered by three AA batteries, the ball changes direction whenever it hits something in its path, so it won’t get stuck under a couch or cabinet. It also has an internal timer that stops it from moving after 15 minutes; to keep the robot going, simply give it a gentle nudge or kick.

Judging from online reviews, this cleaning ball will also double as a fun toy for your cat or dog. Luckily, its fur coat — the ball’s, not your pet’s — can be easily removed and is machine washable.

Mocoro Robot Cleaning Ball, $37.19


 

This robotic mop scrubs your floors while looking like the top half of a delicious macaron.

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It will also release soothing scents as it cleans. Amazon

Another adorable Japanese invention, the Mopet Robot Mop comes in brown or pink and is only 8 inches wide — perfect for squeezing in and out of those hard-to-reach spots around your home.

Despite its small size, this mop will run for six hours in convenient, ten-minute bursts. Like the Mocoro Cleaning Ball, this robot’s microfiber fur coat rids your floors of dust and dirt and can be easily removed and machine washed.

You can also use the included stickers to customize your Mopet, or add an essential oil to the robot’s aroma tray to diffuse soothing scents throughout your home.

Mopet Robot Mop, $37.19


 

This automatic self-cleaning litter box literally does the dirty work for you.

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Who wants to clean the litter box? RobotShop

Compared to dogs, cats are a great, low-maintenance option if you’re looking for a fluffy companion. Regardless, no one enjoys cleaning out litter boxes, much less having their house (or, in NYC, tiny apartment) reek of cat pee.

While this self-cleaning litter box doesn’t come cheap, its patented sifting process — which separates waste from clean litter — may be worth the splurge. All you have to do is empty the carbon-filtered (read: odor neutralizing) drawer and refill the litter about every seven to 10 days.

However, don’t just take my word for it: If you’re not convinced by its many reviews, the Litter-Robot also comes with a 90-day Money Back Guarantee, so you can see for yourself if it’s a worthwhile investment.

Litter-Robot II (Classic), $349


 

An affordable alternative to more high-end models, this robotic vacuum cleans your house in three different ways.

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This guy has a pretty powerful vacuum. GearBest

With over 1,500 reviews and an average rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars on Amazon, the ILIFE A4 Robot Vacuum Cleaner is designed to deep clean thin carpets, hardwood floors, and tile. Its three-step cleaning system consists of a powerful vacuum suction to pick up dirt, rotating blade brushes to clean carpet, and side brushes to dust hard-to-reach spots.

The A4 also has smart, infrared, and cliff sensors that allow it to dock and recharge automatically, navigate tight spaces, and avoid falling off ledges or stairs. On a full charge, the robot will run uninterrupted for two hours, leaving you free to kick back and relax.

ILIFE A4 Robot Vacuum Cleaner, $159.99


This high-performing robotic vacuum cleaner is designed to pick up pet fur and rid your home of allergens.

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Another great floor-cleaning option. Eufy

Like the ILIFE A4, the Eufy RoboVac 11 will deep clean your home at a price that won’t break the bank (at least compared to other models on the market). Unlike the ILIFE A4 however, the RoboVac has a HEPA-style filter that traps mold spores, dust mites, pet dander, and other microscopic allergens — making it the perfect option if you have pets or reoccurring allergies.

Just schedule one cleaning session per day, and this vacuum will use a combination of a rolling brush, side brushes, and powerful suction to clean your home for up to 1.5 continuous hours. Its low-profile design lets it clean where you can’t, its infrared sensors prevent it from colliding into furniture, and its self-charging feature lets you off the hook.

In fact, the RoboVac makes cleaning so easy and effortless, we’ve written about it once before.

Eufy RoboVac 11, $219.99


 

No list of hands-free home cleaning gadgets would be complete without a Roomba, and this model is a best-seller.

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No list is complete without the Roomba. Jonathan Chan/Reviewed.com

The Roomba has come a long way since its days as a DJ in Parks and Recreation. The number one best-seller of robotic vacuums in the US, iRobot has sold over 15 million robots worldwide since it launched its first model in 2002.

It’s easy to see why: The company’s top-selling model on Amazon, the Roomba 650 can automatically adjust to clean any floor type. With AeroVac™ Technology, its powerful vacuum will suck up everything from hair, to pet fur, to carpet fuzz, and more.

The Roomba 650 can also seamlessly weave around and under clutter and furniture, avoid falling off ledges, and automatically recharge between cleanings. Just preset the vacuum to clean your home up to seven times per week, and let the robot take care of the rest.

iRobot Roomba 650, $299.99


Specifically designed to pick up all types of hair, this high-end robotic vacuum has a special brush that quietly cleans your home.

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This is great if you have lots of hair around your home. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

There’s no doubt about it, Neato’s Botvac D85 robotic vacuum is an expensive investment.

What sets it apart from cheaper alternatives however, is its unmatched speed and efficiency. Using patented laser-guided technology, the Botvac D85 can scan any room and follow an optimized course — cleaning your home four times faster than most round models, even in the dark. Its precise edge cleaning side brushes and D-shape edges will also let it reach and clean the spots you can’t.

You can program the Botvac to clean your home daily or just push a button to have it clean one spot or multiple rooms on demand.

Neato Botvac D85, $499.99


Simple yet stylish, this small pouch offers a natural way to neutralize odors and absorb allergens from the air.

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I was skeptical at first, too.Amazon

When I first found this small bag online last summer, I was more than just a little skeptical. But like the thousands of other pleasantly surprised customers on Amazon, I put a bag in my musty closet and woke up to find it significantly less smelly.

By no means can this pouch compare to an electronic air purifier, but it’s a fragrance-free, chemical-free, non-toxic, and extremely cheap alternative that actually works. The pouch’s bamboo charcoal composition allows it to absorb and remove unpleasant odors, allergens, and other harmful pollutants from the air. The key is to use it in small spaces like cars, closets, and bathrooms.

The best part is you can leave the bags out in the sun once a month to reactivate and reuse them for up to two years.

Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag, $9.95


 

Ideal for medium to large rooms, this 3-in-1 air purifier will remove odors, trap allergens, and kill airborne germs.

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A life-changing gadget for anyone with allergies. Guardian Technologies

If you’re looking for a more high-tech air purifier that’s still reasonably priced, this Amazon best seller is probably your best bet. The Germ Guardian AC5000 features a True HEPA filter that captures 99.97% of dust and tiny allergens, recommended by doctors to reduce indoor exposure to allergy triggers.

The Germ Guardian also has a UV-C light that kills airborne bacteria, viruses, germs, and mold spores with titanium dioxide, as well as a charcoal filter that neutralizes odors.

GermGuardian AC5000E 3-in-1 Air Cleaning System, $124.11

WHEN TO BUY CHEAP FURNITURE, AND 9 OTHER HOUSEHOLD ESSENTIALS

Because we all love a sale.

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1 ~ OFFICE FURNITURE

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When To Buy: January

January is the ideal time to purchase office furniture because it will be on clearance. Not only do new furniture models debut in February, this is also the time when retailers target their bargains to entrepreneurs launching new businesses at the turn of the year.

2 ~ LINENS & BEDDING

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Best Time To Buy: February

While some may think February is a good time to binge on candy sales from Valentine’s Day (which it totally is), linens, towels and bedding are what you should be keeping an eye out for. With Presidents’ Day being February 19th, these items are always going to be on markdown at retailers like Bed, Bath and Beyond.

3 ~ LUGGAGE

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Best Time To Buy: March

March is commonly known as the best time to buy luggage. The reason they go on sale at this time is because they appeal to a broad range of buyers: business people, spring-breakers, adventure travelers, the cruise set, and upcoming graduates, according to Retailmenot.com.

4 ~ MATTRESSES

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Best Time To Buy: May

Memorial Day mattress sales are really a thing, according to CNBC. The retailers get their new models in, so the previous year’s mattresses are super cheap. Check out Casper, Overstock.com or Sleepy’s for popular styles.

5 ~ KITCHEN WARE

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Best Time To Buy: June

Saving on cookware and dishes are popular around June because it’s wedding season. But you don’t have to be tying the knot to get a good deal on household essentials.

6 ~ TOOLKITS

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Best Time To Buy: July

With Father’s Day just passing in June, July is a great time to capitalize on the toolkit sales from all home improvement stores, such as Home Depot and Lowe’s.

7 ~ LAPTOPS & DESKTOP COMPUTERS

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Best Time To Buy: August

August is back to school time for the kids, but everyone should be looking forward to it, especially if you’re in the market for a laptop or a desktop computer.

8 ~ AIRLINE TICKETS FOR HOLIDAY TRAVEL

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Best Time To Buy: September

September is a good month to buy many things, since retailers are trying to clear out space for the upcoming holiday season. And while it doesn’t take up any room on store shelves, cheap holiday airfare is the thing to keep an eye on during this month. The best time to purchase your flights are about eight weeks ahead of your trip, according to Cheapism.com.

9 ~ CAMPING GEAR

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Best Time To Buy: October

For all the outdoors lovers out there, October is your month to get a deal as it is the perfect weather for camping. The go-to places for sales, according to Today.com, L.L.Bean and Dick’s Sporting Goods.

10 ~ TVS

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Best Time To Buy: November

It’s no secret that the biggest shopping day for deals is Black Friday. So if you are willing to face the madness, this is the best time to go, Consumer Reports says.

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: https://houseandhome.com/video/family…

 

20 Beautiful Kitchens With Floating Shelves

by Camille Moore

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image via homedesignlover.com

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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image via rilane.com

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image via homedesignlover.com

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image via houseupdated.com

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image via decorpad.com

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image via shelterness.com

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image via houzz.com

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image via biggerthanthethreeofus.com

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image via decoist.com

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image via beeyoutifullife.com

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image via freshome.com

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image via http://www.smnrc.org

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image via http://www.alineadesigns.com

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image via http://www.foodking.us

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image via decorpad.com

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image via http://countertop.iconloungesf.com/

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image via xboxhut.com

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image via http://hzmeshow.com

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image via decoist.com

 

 

 

 

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.

Orderly Outdoors: 5 Tips for Spring Cleaning Your Yard

By 

 

Spring is the perfect time to spruce up your yard. Cleaning your outdoor landscape not only makes your home more attractive, it provides a functional space for play, entertaining, and relaxing. Here are five tips for a tip-top home exterior this spring.

1. Remove Debris

The first step in a successful yard clearing is to remove branches, debris, and leaves that have accumulated during the winter months. You can rent a wood chipper to turn the debris into mulch or bag it and have it collected by your municipality. Removing leaves and other detritus allows air and sunlight to reach your grass, encouraging it to turn green with the season.

2. Clean Hard Surfaces

Consider renting or purchasing a pressure washer from a business like Jetwave Industrial Equipment to freshen your patio, paths and walkways, sidewalk, and other hardscapes. These devices can also be used to effectively clean siding, fencing, sheds, and more. Use a low-pressure tip for best results, especially when it comes to removing algae and mold growth.

3. Install Outdoor Lights

If you already have outdoor lighting, spring is the best time to change the bulbs and ensure the fixtures are in good working order. If not, consider investing in motion lights along all pathways and walks. This not only makes the space more inviting, but also increases safety by preventing trip and fall injuries.

4. Inspect Foliage

When the snow melts, check your landscape for signs of winter wear and tear. Prune any dead branches or overgrown areas. If there are any dead patches in the grass, prepare them for seeding and do so depending on when the weather is warm enough in your area. Starting early can help ensure lush green grass as the temperature rises. If you have perennials in your yard, these should also be pruned as directed to allow for new growth as spring arrives.

5. Plot Your Planting

If you’re planning to conduct any updates to your landscape, make a sketch of your yard and indicate the changes you’ll be making. This can help you determine exactly what plants you need to buy. Once you make your purchases, the garden center can provide advice on when to plant and how to care for new annuals and perennials.

By taking these five spring cleaning steps, you’re on your way to a peaceful, vibrant outdoor space when summer arrives. Let the spring cleaning begin with what people see first when they pass your home!

So, What’s a Pre-War Apartment?

House Tour: A Writer’s Perfect, Peaceful Tiny Brooklyn Studio (Image credit: Melanie Rieders )

If you’ve ever searched for an apartment in New York City, you’ve probably heard the term “pre-war” before, but are you familiar with what it means? Pre-war apartments refer to buildings that were constructed before 1939 (AKA those that were built before World War II began).

Pre-war style came about during a population boom in the city in the 1880s, according to Street Easy. Buildings were made with sturdy construction materials and architects incorporated elaborate and stylish designs. The building boom—and its style—declined during the Great Depression, ending when World War II began. After the war, building styles changed (those are referred to appropriately as “post-war” apartments), so you can tell a lot about an apartment and what it will look and be like just by the “pre-war” descriptor.

So What Does Pre-War Really Mean?

As in, you know the definition, but what does the “pre-war” label say about a home—and why would you want one? For starters, pre-war apartments have specific architectural details that make them unique and give them character, so if you prefer elaborate details to a modern minimalist look and layout, a pre-war apartment might be for you.

The Details (and the Pros)

Pre-war apartments are known for touches like unique layouts, crown molding, high—and beamed—ceilings, sunken living rooms, plaster walls (often with ornamentation) that keep sound out, and wide hallways. They also typically have large foyers, wood floors (especially with a herringbone pattern), arched doorways, and solid wood doors with brass fixtures, according to Street Easy. Pre-war apartments also generally have larger bedrooms than newer buildings in New York City do, so it won’t feel like you’re sleeping in a closet.

…And Then There Are the Cons

While pre-war apartments have all of those beautiful features, they also have some less-than-desirable qualities. “Unique” layouts can often mean confusing layouts that are hard to work with, and most pre-war apartments have small kitchens and bathrooms and no central air. They also usually have older radiators that clank when they turn on, and inefficient windows (i.e. they don’t always hold up to the elements that well). You might love the look of a pre-war apartment, but you also have to be prepared for the downsides—if they’re not something you want to deal with in your home, you may want to find something with a more modern construction instead.

Finding the Pre-War Apartment of Your Dreams

Apartment hunting in New York City is already a bit of a challenge, and looking for something specific like a pre-war apartment definitely makes it harder. You have to look in specific neighborhoods, and there are other requirements in place that make it more difficult to own a pre-war apartment once you’ve found it.

Where To Look

Pre-war apartments are—unsurprisingly—typically found in specific neighborhoods. Darren Sukenik, a managing director at real estate company Prudential Douglas Elliman, told the New York Times that finding a pre-war apartment is like finding a zebra since they only exist in certain places.

According to Sukenik, you’re most likely to find pre-war apartments if you focus on neighborhoods like the Upper West Side and the West Village in Manhattan, but you can also head to Brooklyn and look in neighborhoods like Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill and Boerum Hill for less expensive older apartments with pre-war touches. You may also be able to find pre-war apartments in the Bronx.

What’s the Catch?

Generally speaking, pre-war apartments (at least the ones in Manhattan) are co-ops—meaning, they require co-op board approval, and you’ll likely have to put down a bigger down payment, according to Sukenik. There are exceptions, of course, but they might not be exactly what you’re looking for. So, if you have your heart set on owning a true pre-war apartment in New York City, be prepared to pay more (and to impress the board!).

Speaking of impressing the co-op board, you should know some of the factors that go into the approval process. Co-op boards typically judge based on your finances, whether or not you’ll be a good neighbor, and whether or not the apartment will be your primary residence, according to Brick Underground. You also have to put together a co-op package that details your finances, personal qualifications, employment background, plans for the apartment should you be approved, and more. (You can find out more about what goes into a co-op package and how to impress the board here.)

If you’re interested in buying a pre-war apartment, CityRealty has a list of the top 100 pre-war apartment buildings in New York City so you can start your search.